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Title: Árminius Vambéry, his life and adventures
Author: Vambéry, Árminius
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: Portrait, signed "Faithfully yours, A. Vambéry"]



ARMINIUS VAMBÉRY

HIS LIFE AND ADVENTURES

WRITTEN BY HIMSELF

WITH INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER
DEDICATED TO
THE BOYS OF ENGLAND

Portrait and Seventeen Illustrations

London
T. FISHER UNWIN
26 PATERNOSTER SQUARE
1889



      FIFTH AND POPULAR EDITION.

      =ARMINIUS VAMBÉRY=: His Life and Adventures. Written by
      Himself. With Portrait and 14 Illustrations. Square
      Imperial 16mo, cloth extra, 6s.

     "A most fascinating work, full of interesting and
     curious experiences."--_Contemporary Review._

     "It is partly an autobiographic sketch of character,
     partly an account of a singularly daring and successful
     adventure in the exploration of a practically unknown
     country. In both aspects it deserves to be spoken of as
     a work of great interest and of considerable
     merit."--_Saturday Review._

     "We can follow M. Vambéry's footsteps in Asia with
     pride and pleasure; we welcome every word he has to
     tell us about the ethnography and the languages of the
     East."--_Academy._

     "The character and temperament of the writer come out
     well in his quaint and vigorous style.... The
     expressions, too, in English, of modes of thought and
     reflections cast in a different mould from our own
     gives additional piquancy to the composition, and,
     indeed, almost seems to bring out unexpected capacities
     in the language."--_Athenæum._

     "Has all the fascination of a lively romance. It is the
     confession of an uncommon man; an intensely clever,
     extraordinarily energetic egotist, well-informed,
     persuaded that he is in the right and impatient of
     contradiction."--_Daily Telegraph._

     "The work is written in a most captivating manner, and
     illustrates the qualities that should be possessed by
     the explorer."--_Novoe Vremya, Moscow._

     "We are glad to see a popular edition of a book which,
     however it be regarded, must be pronounced unique. The
     writer, the adventures, and the style are all
     extraordinary--the last not the least of the three. It
     is flowing and natural--a far better style than is
     written by the majority of English travellers."--_St.
     James's Gazette._

     *** _Over Eighty other English and Foreign periodicals
     have reviewed this work._


     LONDON: T. FISHER UNWIN, 26, PATERNOSTER SQUARE.



CONTENTS.
                                                                  PAGE

PREFATORY NOTE                                                    xiii


INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER                                                xv


I.

EARLY YEARS.

Tutor and Waiter--Vacation Rambles--Literary
Studies--Linguistic Studies                                          1


II.

THE FIRST JOURNEY.

At Galacz--A Storm at Sea--Penniless in Pera--A Teacher of
Languages--Teaching a Turk--Hussein Daim Pasha--Ahmed
Effendi                                                             15


III.

LIFE IN STAMBUL.

My First Book--Seeking for an Ancient Dialect--My Friends'
Opinion of my Journey--"Reshid Effendi"                             34


IV.

FROM TREBIZOND TO ERZERUM.

At Trebizond--On the road to Erzerum                                42


V.

FROM ERZERUM TO THE PERSIAN FRONTIER.

The Frontier of Kurdistan--Attacked by Robbers--Tales of
Robbers--An Old Friend                                              47


VI.

FROM THE PERSIAN BORDER TO TEBRIZ.

On Persian Soil--The Bazaar at Khoy--The Seids                      56


VII.

IN TEBRIZ

Study of the Shi-ite Sect--Holy Water--An Old
Acquaintance--A Royal Investiture--An Overworked Embassy            64


VIII.

IN ZENDJAN.

A Persian Medico--A Persian Miracle-Play--Tragedy
Appreciated                                                         77


IX.

FROM KAZVIN TO TEHERAN.

The Atoning Procession                                              85


X.

IN TEHERAN.

Talking to Turks of Home--Social Contrasts in Asia                  89


XI.

THE SALT DESERT OF DESHTI-KUVIR.

Choosing a Companion--Morning Prayer--The Desert of
Devils--The Caravan of the Dead                                     94


XII.

KUM AND KASHAN.

The City of Virgins--The Tomb of Fatima--Kashan--Murder in
the Desert                                                         104


XIII.

FROM ISFAHAN TO THE SUPPOSED TOMB OF CYRUS.

The Pope of Isfahan--Movable Towers--Tales for
Travellers--Gazelles in the Desert--Fars                           113


XIV.

PERSEPOLIS.

Solomon's Throne--A Morning Reverie--Vandalism in
Persia--Embracing the Pilgrims                                     125


XV.

SHIRAZ.

Fertility of Shiraz--A Linguist's Joke--Persian
Cruelty--Saadi--Europeans Feasting in Persia--An Earthquake
in Shiraz--Desolation                                              136


XVI.

PREPARATIONS FOR MY JOURNEY TO CENTRAL ASIA.

Chivalrous Dervishes--Scruples--Journey with
Tartars--Committed to His Purpose                                  150


XVII.

FROM TEHERAN TO THE LAND OF THE TURKOMANS.

Description of the Caravan--Incognito Unveiled--Thieving
Jackals--Unrequited Love--The Slave Trade                          161


XVIII.

GOMUSHTEPE.

Receiving the Pilgrims--How to become a Dervish--Learning in
the Wilds--Slavery--A Betrothal Feast--A Robber Chief              174


XIX.

FROM GOMUSHTEPE TO THE BORDER OF THE DESERT.

Threatened by the Wild Boar--An Anxious Moment                     187


XX.

IN THE DESERT.

Suspicion Aroused--A Pious Brother--Karendag
Mountains--Little Balkan Mountain--Charm of the
Desert--Thirst!--Hot Weather                                       192


XXI.

IN KHIVA.

An Army of Asses--Rest and Dread--Making a Friend--The
Khan--A Lion in Khiva--Fierce Barbarism                            213


XXII.

FROM KHIVA TO BOKHARA.

Intoxicated Dervishes--A Khivan Fair--Flying from
Tekkes--Thirst and Despair--Among Slaves                           233


XXIII.

IN BOKHARA.

Life in Bokhara--More Suspicions--Theology in Bokhara--The
Slave Trade--The Road to Samarkand                                 244


XXIV.

IN SAMARKAND.

Tombs of the Saints--Ambition and Prudence--A Royal
Cross-Examiner                                                     254


XXV.

FROM SAMARKAND TO HERAT.

Taken for a Runaway Slave--A Scorpion Bite--Saved by
Prayers--Redemption of Slaves--Exorbitant Tolls                    263


XXVI.

IN HERAT AND BEYOND IT.

A City in Ruins--Yakub Khan--Freezing Weather                      275


XXVII.

IN MESHED.

A Meshed Crowd--An Unceremonious Visitor--A Welcome--A
Meshed Monument--Persecution of Jews--The Tomb of Firdusi          283


XXVIII.

FROM MESHED TO TEHERAN.

An Old Friend--Saddle _v._ Cushions--A Curious
Phenomenon--Alone in the Desert--An Englishman--A Snug
Berth--Confounding the Disturbers--Reputation without
Foundation                                                         297


XXIX.

FROM TEHERAN TO TREBIZOND.

The Discomforts of Civilization--Presented to the
Shah--Persian Official Corruption--A Character--An Expensive
Photographer                                                       314


XXX.

HOMEWARDS.

Constantinople--London                                             325


XXXI.

IN ENGLAND.

Sir Henry Rawlinson--Sir Roderick Murchison--Lord
Strangford--A Lion in London--At Burlington House--The
Sorrows of Authorship                                              330


XXXII.

IN PARIS.

Napoleon III.--French Suspicions                                   343


XXXIII.

IN HUNGARY.

In Hungary                                                         349



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                                                  PAGE

PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR                                    Frontispiece

PRESSBURG                                                            3

PESTH--THE STARTING PLACE                                           11

GALACZ                                                              17

THE BOSPHORUS                                                       23

MOUNT ARARAT                                                        57

CITY OF TEBRIZ                                                      65

TRAVELLING IN PERSIA                                                97

TAKH-TA-RA-WAN                                                     127

MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE TARTARS                                    151

A DERVISH FEAST                                                    163

A LIGHT FOR THE COMPASS                                            197

THE KARENDAG HILLS                                                 201

A WELL IN THE DESERT                                               209

AN ASININE ARMY                                                    215

AUDIENCE WITH THE KHAN OF KHIVA                                    223

ROAD IN CENTRAL ASIA                                               229

SAMARKAND                                                          255



PREFATORY NOTE TO FIRST EDITION.


The following pages contain a strictly personal narrative of my Travels
and Adventures in Asia and in Europe. They make no pretence whatever to
be a geographical and ethnological description of the actual Central
Asia. Upon these points recent works have greatly added to the knowledge
we possessed twenty years ago, when I performed my dangerous pilgrimage
from Budapest to Samarkand. A _résumé_ of the various publications of
Russian, English, French and German travellers in this region would have
formed a separate book, but these have nothing to do with the variegated
adventures of my own career, of which I here propose to give the first
complete picture to the English reader.

ARMINIUS VAMBÉRY.

BUDAPEST.



INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER

TO THE BOYS OF ENGLAND.


In presenting this narrative of my adventures in Europe and in Asia to
the juvenile reader in England, I must add a few remarks which have not
been embodied in the autobiographical reminiscences of this book. I
must, in the first place, state that the desire to see foreign countries
awoke in me at the tender age of six years. Playing with my younger
comrades on the green before our village, I tried, with a crutch under
my left arm--for I was lame--to run races with more lissome lads.
Remaining usually far behind my rivals, and being jeered at by my
comrades for my failures, I would go crying to my dear mother and
bitterly complain of the shame which had befallen me. She used with all
maternal tenderness to console me, saying, "Never mind that, my dear. If
you grow older and stronger, you will beat them all by force of
perseverance. I am sure you will yet be far in advance of them all."
With firm reliance on the words of my good mother, I did not henceforth
care very much for the scoffing of my playmates; I looked forward with
great impatience to the time when I should be _in advance of them all_.
With similar encouragements I was spurred on to my elementary studies,
and, seeing that by dint of exertion I became one of the most
industrious of students, I was fully prepared for the same success in
physical competitions. But, alas! here I was to a certain extent
disappointed, for my quick motion was generally hindered by the crutch,
which I still used at the age of ten, not so much from necessity as from
having become too accustomed to it to walk without it, but which I
intended to lay aside as soon as possible. It was one day, whilst
visiting the tomb of my father in the cemetery, that I made up my mind
to walk without that troublesome instrument under my arm. Having thrown
away the crutch, I walked, or I should rather say, I jumped, upon one
leg a few paces, in order to try locomotion without a wooden support. It
was a hard, nay, an exhaustive work; and, as the village was nearly a
quarter of an hour's journey from the cemetery, I began to despair, and
jumped back to fetch again the despised support. Having taken it in hand
and being ready to start again for home, I suddenly felt an
extraordinary agitation awakening in my breast; a desire for immediate
ease was fighting fiercely with determined resolution, and it was only
upon my remembrance of the good advice of my mother that the latter got
the upper hand. In order to avoid any future temptation, I broke the
crutch asunder, and using one half of it as a walking stick, I returned
home, of course with great fatigue and nearly bathed in perspiration.

I relate this incident in order to prove to the young reader that a
resolute will is able to accomplish even seemingly impossible things,
and that, through persisting in our decisions, we nearly always reach
the goal of our desires. With the motto, "Forwards and never backwards!"
I, a lame man, destitute of all name, was able to see distant countries
in Asia, and to visit such places and peoples as I was anxious to know
from the time that I first read of them. For we Hungarians are, as you
must know, Asiatics by descent; our ancestors came thousands of years
ago from the East to the banks of the Danube, and it is very natural
that with us a voyage to Asia is connected with a good deal of national
piety.

To Englishmen travels in Asia have another kind of attraction. To one,
that continent is the cradle of our holy religion, the ancient seat of
civilization; to another, it is a region for adventure, or the far
country where he may satisfy his curiosity by witnessing habits and
customs so different from his own. To the vast majority of Englishmen
Asia is a field for commercial and industrial enterprise, where a noble
and grateful task awaits the European, and where a holy duty may be
fulfilled.

Now I can assure my young friends in England that Asia is worth seeing
and studying. There are many, many features in the character and the
social life of the Asiatic which deserve our admiration, although there
are also others which will rouse our compassion and instigate us more
greatly to love our own country and to cling the more closely to our own
religion and institutions. What will strike us most is the difference of
opinion and of view we meet at every step in the interior life of the
Asiatic. It is not only his physical appearance, his dress and language,
his food and habitation, but also his manner of thinking, nay, his mode
of walking sitting and lying, which will seem strange to our eyes, and
offer to us a spectacle such as we are unaccustomed to in our European
world. Of fine scenes, of queer looking towns, of wonderful buildings
and old monuments I will not speak at all, but I will repeat what I said
before: "A journey to Asia is quite worth the trouble involved in it."

It would be indeed unfair should I conceal from you the fact that
travelling in the interior of Asia does not at all belong to the class
of enterprises called pleasure trips or vacation tours; for it involves
a good deal of trouble and fatigue, of privation and suffering. A man
brought up under better circumstances and accustomed to lead a
comfortable life must be prepared to nourish his body on the most
incredible food, to front all inclemencies of weather, and, what is most
difficult, to renounce his notions of cleanliness. Of course a European
is only gradually trained for such an extraordinary life of hardships;
it is only by getting gradually from bad to worse that we are able to
withstand the most trying situations; and if, reading the following
pages, you should be astonished at what I went through and what I had to
suffer, please to note that in spite of the great poverty in which I
spent my childhood my task would not have come to a successful end if my
progress from Hungary to Central Asia had not taken place gradually and
after a temporary sojourn in the countries I had to pass on my way.
Well, the preparation was certainly lengthy and wearisome, but in spite
of that preparatory school the whole undertaking was extremely
hazardous, and my sufferings were really such as could hardly be
described. The account, which you will read in the following pages and
all that I have written, contains scarcely the half of the adventures I
went through in Europe and in Asia, and ought to be taken only for the
outlines of a career I intend to sketch, but will not publish in my
lifetime.

I do not need to add that I do not repent at all of having spent the
best portion of my life in visiting different Asiatic countries, and of
having been an eye-witness of many strange and highly interesting
customs and habits of men. The joy and in most satisfaction which I felt
whilst looking on the scenes for which my earliest juvenile fancy
longed, that same joy I derive now from the recollection of those bygone
adventures, and I feel really happy in unfolding the delightful and
variegated picture of my former life. Should my young readers in England
find an enjoyment in these pages, and should I have succeeded in
imparting to them any knowledge of the distant Asiatic world, I shall
feel certainly the more happy; for, according to the Oriental, to
receive is only a single pleasure, but to give is a twofold one.

ARMINIUS VAMBÉRY.

BUDAPEST.



I.

EARLY YEARS.


When my father died in 1832 I was but a few months old. My mother was
poor, very poor indeed. By marrying again, however, she fondly hoped she
might be enabled to give her helpless and fatherless orphans a better
bringing up. But in this expectation she was sadly mistaken. Our
stepfather, although a very excellent man, did but very little towards
relieving the pressing needs of our small household. In due time, too,
our family circle got fresh additions; the number of the little ones who
stood in need of food and clothing was increasing. The consequence was
that our parents, in their solicitude for the welfare of the smaller
children, turned the older ones adrift to seek the best way they could
their own livelihood as soon as they were supposed to have attained an
age ripe enough to take care of themselves.

My turn came when twelve years old. My mother then thought I had reached
a period of my life when I ought to look after myself. Although I had
been afflicted since my birth with a lameness from which I began to
suffer when three years old, and which compelled me to carry a crutch
under my left arm up to the time my mother declared me to be of mature
age, I was yet, on the whole, a tolerably hearty and healthy boy. The
simple fare, often barely sufficient to still the cravings of hunger,
the exceedingly scanty clothing allowed to me, and my want of
familiarity with even the meanest comforts of life had, already, at this
early stage of my life, hardened my body, and inured it to the most
adverse climatic conditions.

I had then been attending school for about three years; and as my
teachers were lavish in their praises of my extraordinary memory,
enabling me to learn by heart, with great ease, almost anything, even
passages in Latin which I did not understand at all, I thought of going
on with the pursuit of my studies, in order to become a physician or
lawyer,--the two professions which, at that time, were considered in the
rural parts of Hungary as the goal of the most exalted ambition of an
educated man.

My mother, too, had some such future in view for me, but inexorable
poverty stood in the way of all such ambitious schemings. I had to stoop
lower, much lower indeed. I was apprenticed to a ladies' dressmaker.
When I had got so far as to be able to stitch two pieces of muslin
together, a feeling overcame me that Dame Fortune had something better
in store for me than stitching away all my life long. I soon left the
shop of the ladies' dress artist, and was engaged by the inn-keeper of
the village to be the private teacher of his only son. I was to initiate
him into the mystery of reading, writing and arithmetic. But my duties
did not end there; I had to perform, besides, such unusual offices as
the cleaning of the boots of the family on Saturday evenings, and
occasionally waiting on thirsty guests, and handing them a glass of wine
or whiskey.

[Illustration: PRESSBURG.]

There was, undoubtedly, some slight incongruity between my tender age
and the position of a teacher, nor was it easy for one who stood in sore
need of instruction himself to impart it to another,--and, indeed, the
master of the house did not fail to remind me of this anomaly by a
treatment anything but in keeping with the dignity of my position as the
mentor of his son.

But I received even worse treatment at the hands of the young master--my
pupil. The lad was two years my senior, and on one occasion, when
carried away with my pedagogic zeal I had given him a severe reprimand
for his rude doings, he, nothing loth, fell on me and would have given
me a sound thrashing but for the timely appearance of his mother.

My tutorship proved thus a school of hardship for me; but I bravely
persevered until I could carry away with me from the Island of Schütt,
where I had spent the first years of my childhood, the large sum of
eight florins, which represented my net earnings. With this sum I
hastened to St. George, in the vicinity of Pressburg, in order to begin
there my studies at the gymnasium.

The money I had brought with me was just sufficient to purchase me the
necessary books, and kind and charitable people helped me on in many
other ways. Seven different families each gave me one day in the week a
free meal, adding to it a big slice of bread for breakfast and another
for luncheon. I also got the cast-off clothes of the wealthier
schoolboys. By dint of application, and owing, perhaps, to the quick and
easy comprehension which was natural to me, I succeeded in passing my
examination at the first Latin class, as the second at the head of the
class. My whole heart was in my studies; I was soon able to speak Latin
with tolerable fluency; my professors remarked me and showed me some
favour, which greatly assisted me in my struggles.

I passed, also, at St. George my examination in the second Latin class,
successfully. My fondness for roving gave me no rest. I began to long
for a change and was particularly desirous of going to Pressburg, where
there were schools of a higher grade. I therefore left St. George,
although I had my livelihood almost assured there, and the year 1846 saw
me, at the age of fourteen, within the walls of the ancient City of
Coronation.

There began anew my struggling and striving and desperate exertions to
support myself. It became clear to me from the very first that, as
buildings became taller and crowds larger, the difficulty of making
acquaintances was increasing and the interest of others in my fortunes
was diminishing. I remained here, for three years, now in the capacity
of a servant, and then teaching she-cooks, chambermaids, and other
individuals thirsting for knowledge. Every stone of the pavement of that
beautiful little town on the blue Danube, could it but speak, might tell
some sad tale of misery which I endured there. But youth is able to bear
anything and everything!

I continued my studies, undaunted by want and privations, and was
steadily advancing towards the object I had proposed to myself; at the
end of the first term of school I was reckoned amongst the best
scholars. In recalling these sad days, I never cease to wonder at the
never-failing cheerfulness and the high spirits which were my constant
companions throughout and helped me through all the adversities of life.
My sturdy health aided me in the good fight and did not allow my
good-humour to desert me.

In spite of my frugal fare, consisting of bread and water only, I could
boast of the healthiest of complexions, and was the life and soul of all
fun and mischief in the schoolroom as well as at play. Every time our
school term drew to its end, I was sure to be among the first to seize
my travelling-stick, and launch at random out into the world, limping
but always on foot, without a penny in my pocket. In this manner I had
already visited Vienna, Prague, and other cities and towns in the
Austrian monarchy. Often, when tired as I was marching along the road, I
would indulge in a good-humoured parley with the driver of a waggon or
carriage that happened to pass me, and get, in return for my pains, a
lift in his vehicle for a short distance. At night I usually put up at
the houses of the reverend clergy of the place, where my Latin
conversation was sure to earn for me some regards and a few kreutzers
for my travelling expenses; and by a few happy neatly turned
compliments, bestowed upon their housekeepers, I generally succeeded in
having my travelling-bag filled with provisions for the next day. Truly,
politeness and a cheerful disposition are precious coins current in
every country; they stand at a high premium with the young and the old,
with men and women; and he who has them at his disposal may very well
call himself rich, although his purse be empty.

These rambles were a preparatory school for my wanderings as a dervish
in after years, and it was always with a heavy heart that I put my
walking-stick into a corner at the end of the vacation. Whether or not
it was because I suffered from want and had to struggle hard to eke out
a livelihood in town, one thing is certain, I disliked living in cities
from my earliest childhood. Upon entering the narrow street with its
rows of tall houses, and watching the diminishing sky over my head, my
youthful spirits sank within me, and only the hope of standing at the
end of the school term again a free man under God's bright heaven
communing freely with Nature rendered my stay in town bearable.

In 1847, besides continuing my regular studies at school, I began to
devote myself to private studies; for it must be owned that the
gymnasiums were rather badly managed in Hungary at that time. In
addition to reading the greatest variety of literary productions, on
travels, which I all-eagerly devoured, I was learning French. Besides my
native language, Hungarian, I had acquired German early in life. At
about nearly the same time I had mastered Sclavonian, and as my studies
at school had rendered me familiar with Latin and Greek, I found myself,
not quite sixteen years old, conversant with so many principal languages
that acquiring the idioms kindred to them had become a comparatively
easy task for me.

I always took special delight in memorizing. Children have very vague
ideas about natural gifts, and when I was able to increase the number of
words which I could master in one day from ten to sixty and even to a
hundred, my exultation knew no bounds. I must frankly own, however, that
I had not at that time the faintest conception as to what the result of
these successful exertions, which so flattered my vanity, might be.

Thus it happened that from the private study of French I gradually
passed over to the study of the remaining branches of the Latin family.
I did the same thing with the Germanic languages, and, beginning with
English, I soon eagerly extended my studies to Danish and Swedish. I
pursued the same method with the Sclavonic dialects, and as I never
omitted, in the zeal of learning, to read out loud and to hold
conversations with myself in the languages I was learning, I had
acquired, in a surprisingly short time, a certain kind of proficiency in
all these languages which my youthful conceit made me imagine was
perfection itself; and I am afraid I had rather an exalted opinion of
myself at that time.

Vanity injures the character of a man in most cases, but it proves at
times a very wholesome incentive to exertion. In this instance the
conceit which was the result of my undisciplined imagination made me
abandon the path of public studies I had entered upon, and induced me to
continue my studies by myself. The friendly reader will ask what was the
object of this self-education. Indeed I myself did not then know.
"_Nulla dies sine linea_" ("No day without a line") was the maxim ever
present in my mind, and even when I was devoting from eight to ten hours
daily to teaching, I contrived to make such good use of the remaining
time as considerably to improve in my own studies.

The pleasures of general literature had now taken the place of the dry
and monotonous memorizing of different languages of former years. I drew
to my heart's content from the rich and varied fountain of the mental
products of nearly all the European nations. The bards of Albion, the
troubadours of Servia, the minstrels of Spain and the inspired poets of
Italy; Lomonosoff, Pushkin, Tegnér, Andersen, Ochlenschlaeger, nearly
all the muses of the present age and of the past ages beguiled my hours
of leisure. I always read out loud, and frequently noted down in writing
on the margin of the pages I read my feelings whenever any passage
happened to strike my imagination.

Owing to this habit of loud reading and the violent gestures with which
I would often accompany it, the plain people who were about me often
thought me wrong in the mind; and upon one occasion this conviction had
so grown upon them that I actually lost my position as a teacher, on
that account. But what cared I for the small criticisms of these people,
so long as my mind was peopled with Tasso's struggle before Jerusalem,
Cid's valiant deeds, and Byron's heroes and heroines? Yet, I must
confess, no scenes had such a charm for me as those acting in the land
of the rising sun, Asia--which then seemed to me so very far away--with
her gorgeously brilliant robe, richly covered with pearls and gems,
constantly floating before my eyes. How could it be otherwise with one
who, in his youth, had read "The Arabian Nights," and who, as in my
case, was by birth and education half an Asiatic himself.

I knew Asia as the land of the most fantastic adventures, as the home of
the most fabulous successes; and, having led an adventurous life at an
age when I was a child still, and being already in pursuit of some great
good fortune, my first yearnings after distant lands pointed already to
Asia.

In order to be enabled soon to gratify this longing, I thought it
necessary to make myself, in the first place, familiar with the
languages of Asia; and I began at once with the Turkish language. The
Ural-Altaic dialect gave me less trouble than it would have given most
Occidental people owing to its affinity with the Magyar language. I
found it all the more difficult to master its strange characters without
a teacher or any direction. For whole days I went on drawing the letters
with a stick on the sand, until I became, at length, familiar with the
value of the diacritical points, that is, the distinguishing marks
indispensable to a correct pronunciation of the letters and words. In
this way I steadily improved. I was in want of a dictionary, but I could
not afford to pay the high price asked for it, a "Bianchi" costing then
nearly forty florins; and as I was compelled to trace the meaning of the
single words through the labyrinth of the Turkish text by the aid of a
so-called literal translation, "Wickerhauser's Chrestomathy," it did
happen to me that after I had got through with the study of a bulky
volume, I found out that I had been doing it all in a wrong way, and was
obliged to do it all over again. Such bitter disappointments occurred to
me more than once in the course of my autodidactic career; but what
labour or task will ever restrain the ardour of youth or damp its
enthusiasm?

[Illustration: PESTH--THE STARTING PLACE.]

I had now reached my twentieth year, and I was richly rewarded for all
the pains I had taken when I was able for the first time to read and
understand, without the aid of a dictionary, a short Turkish poem. It
was not, indeed, the contents of the Oriental muse, quite inaccessible
as yet for me, which kindled my enthusiasm, but rather the fruits, the
sweet fruits of my labours, which afforded me such abundant
satisfaction, and acted as an incentive spurring me to press forward
into the field of Oriental science. All my musings, endeavours, thoughts
and feelings tended towards the Land of the East, which was beckoning to
me in its halo of splendour. My spirit had been haunting ever so long
its fairy fields, and, sooner or later, my body was sure to follow it.
For one who had still to struggle for his daily bread, in his European
home, it required considerable boldness to think of a journey to the
East, a land many hundred miles away. I will not deny that even the
boldest flights of youthful enthusiasm, and the all-powerful desire of
getting to know strange countries and customs, had to halt at the
stumbling-block raised by poverty, and that luring fancy kept dazzling
my eyes for many a day before I seriously set to work to carry out my
cherished scheme. But a firm resolve with me is almost always like the
avalanche which is being precipitated from the lofty summits of the
Alps--beginning with but an insignificant ball of snow set in motion by
a favourable breeze, but soon swelling into a tremendous mass which
carries before it every impediment, crushing and driving before it with
irresistible force everything standing in its way. Such was the impulse
which I received through the patronage of Baron Joseph Eötvös, known in
Europe as a writer of high merit. This generous countryman of mine was
not a man of wealth, but his influence procured me a free passage to the
Black Sea. He gave me also a modest obolus and some old clothes. My
knapsack, bursting with books, was soon buckled on, and I embarked in a
steamer for Galacz, from which place I was to go to Constantinople, the
immediate object of my journey.



II.

THE FIRST JOURNEY.


Who can describe the feelings of a young man, barely twenty-two years
old, who up to this day had been buffeted about by fortune, finding
himself all of a sudden hastening towards the goal of his most cherished
wishes, with (say) fifteen Austrian florins in his pocket, and about to
enter upon a life full of uncertainty, in a distant region, amongst a
strange people, who were rude and savage, and were beginning only then
to seek a closer acquaintanceship with the nations of the West? My soul
was agitated alternately by feelings of fear and hope, of curiosity and
pain. Nobody accompanied me to the landing-place to see me off, nobody
was there waiting for me, no warm presence of a friendly hand nor a
mother's loving kiss cheered me on in the journey on which I was to
start.

I had, thus, reason enough to feel somewhat depressed; nor could I
entirely shake off this feeling; but I had no sooner come on deck, and
begun to mix with the people, forming the national kaleidoscope one is
always sure to meet on a voyage along the Lower Danube, and got an
opportunity of conversing in Servian, Italian, Turkish and other
languages of which I had had hitherto only a theoretical knowledge, than
every vestige of my former downheartedness gradually vanished. I was now
in my element. Add to this that I soon became the object of general
admiration owing to the fluency of my conversation in different
languages; the crowd being always sure to stand in a sort of awe of
every polyglot. They formed a ring around me, trying to guess at my
nationality, and received rather sceptically my statement that I had
never been abroad.

I was, of course, very much amused at the gaping crowd, but I managed to
derive some more solid advantages from the manifestation of the good
opinion which my fellow travellers entertained for me; for, when the
dinner-bell was rung, and I preferred to remain behind on the deck with
a perturbed expression of countenance, some enthusiastic disciple of
Mercury was sure to get hold of the so-called youthful prodigy and pay
him his meal.

In the absence of such well-disposed stomachic patrons, I would lounge
about in the neighbourhood of the kitchen of the ship, the masters of
which are for the most part Italians. A few stanzas from Petrarca or
Tasso sufficed to attract the attention of the _cuoco_ (cook). A
conversation in pure Tuscan soon followed, and the upshot was a
well-filled plate of maccaroni or risotto, capped by a piece of boiled
or roasted meat. "Mille grazie, signore" (a thousand thanks, sir), meant
that I would come in the evening, to claim a continuation of the favour
shown me. The good Italian would shove his barrett of linen on one side,
give a short laugh, and proved by his answer, "Come whenever you
like," that the seed of my linguistic experiments had not fallen on a
barren soil.

[Illustration: GALACZ.]

My constant good-humour and happy disposition were of great help to me
in all my straits, and, assisted by my tongue, were the means of
procuring for me many a thing upon occasions when the attempts of others
would have proved fruitless. In this manner I reached Galacz, a dirty,
miserable place at this day even, but at that time much more so. During
my voyage on the Lower Danube, the shore on the right-hand side, with
its Turkish towns and Turkish population, entirely absorbed my
attention. To me every turbaned traveller, adorned with a long beard,
upon entering the ship became a novel and interesting page meant for my
particular study, and, at the same time, a never failing object of
pleasurable excitement.

When the sun was setting, and the truly faithful sat, or rather knelt
down for prayer in the abject attitude peculiar to them on those
occasions, I followed with my eyes every one of their movements with the
most feverish and breathless attention; watching intensely the very
motion of their lips, as they were uttering Arabic words, unintelligible
even to them; and not until after they were done did I again breathe
freely.

The interest which I so plainly showed could not escape the notice of
the fanatic Moslem. We then lived in the era of the Hungarian refugees.
Some hundreds of my countrymen made believe that they had been converted
to Islam. A popular belief had got abroad that the whole Magyar people
would acknowledge Mohammed as their prophet, and whenever a Mohammedan
came across a Madjarli, the fire of the missionary was blazing fiercely
in his heart.

Such an interest, or a kindred one, must have entered into the
friendship shown to me during my voyage to Galacz by some Turks from
Widdin, Rustchuk and Silistria. In this supposition of mine I may
possibly be mistaken, and it is quite as likely that their sympathies
were excited by the deep national feeling, which then manifested itself
everywhere in the Ottoman empire, in favour of the Magyars, who had been
defeated by the Russians. This state of affairs, at all events, was of
excellent service to me, not only during this passage, but during my
entire stay in Turkey.

I was drawn by curiosity towards the half-Asiatic Turks, my fellow
travellers, and these very men were the first to introduce me into the
Oriental world. I need not say that, after having been with them for a
day or two, I improved in my Turkish, to such an extent, that at Galacz
I was already able to serve a countryman of mine as an interpreter.

The Oriental, and, I may say, the Mohammedan element was decidedly
preponderating amongst the passengers, in whose company I went from
Galacz to Constantinople. The reader will not be surprised to learn that
I was booked for the cheapest place on the ship, namely, the deck, and
that, even for that place, I often paid only half fare. I placed my
meagre knapsack near the luggage of the Turks, who were sitting apart
from the others, and most of whom were on their pilgrimage to Mecca; I
was impatiently looking out to catch a glimpse of the long-hoped-for
sea, which I had never seen before.

He who has got his first impressions of the sea, through the reading of
Byron's aquatic scenes, Camoen's "Lusiade," or Tegnér's "Legend of
Frithjof," will be overcome by feelings of no common order in finding
himself, for the first time in his life, on the boundless watery
expanse, especially of the Euxine--gliding along its bosom and being
rocked by its waves.

At an hour's distance from the mouths of the Sulina, I gazed, in a
reverie, at the awful grandeur of the sea, not in the least disturbed by
the deep guttural sounds and savage groans which came from the sea-sick
people around me.

Father Poseidon had done no manner of harm to my health. I had rather
reason to complain of an unusually keen appetite; the excessive
chilliness of the evenings, too--we were then in the month of
April--cooled my blood more than I thought it desirable. I began to
shake with the cold, in spite of a surplus carpet, placed at my disposal
for a covering by the kind care of a Turk; and after having feasted my
eyes on the bright, star-covered sky for a considerable time, I fell, at
length, asleep.

I was suddenly and rudely roused from my dreams towards midnight by
peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, accompanied by a violent
shower. I had been all day long wishing for a storm; I own my wish was
gratified at night in such a thorough manner as fully to satisfy my
romantic disposition.

How my heart throbbed upon seeing the ship dance up and down the
towering, mountain-like waves, like a nimble gazelle! The creaking of
beams, the howling of the wind, with which the shouts of despair from
the passengers were mingling, the everlasting appeals to Allah, which
resounded everywhere, could not destroy the halo of poetry with which I
surrounded a scene, otherwise commonplace enough. Only after getting
soaking wet with the chilly rain did I shift my place.

I got up and tried to keep myself warm by taking a walk, but the chaos
of legs stretched out, of travelling-bags, bundles, firearms and turbans
which were littering the ground rendered the walk well-nigh
impracticable. I longingly looked at the open space close by the deck,
reserved for the promenading of first-class passengers, where I
observed, in the darkness of the night a man hurrying to and fro. I had
at first thoughts of entering into a conversation with him; but, my
courage to do so failing me, I hit upon another expedient to attract his
attention. I commenced declaiming, in the midst of the violent storm,
one of the epic poems I knew by heart. My choice fell on Voltaire's
Henriade--

   "Je chante ce héros qui régna sur la France
    Et par droit de conquête et par droit de naissance!"[1]

     [Footnote 1: I sing of the hero who reigned in France,
     by right of conquest and by right of birth.]

And having roared out, with a good will, into the darkness of the night,
several verses, I had the satisfaction of seeing the much-envied
first-class passenger stop, near a crowd of Turks, in a listening
attitude; and after a while he joined me and began a conversation with
me.

With Voltaire, acting as master of ceremonies, questions about rank and
nationality seemed to be out of place. I discovered next morning that
the figure, wrapped in the shadows of night, belonged to a gentleman, a
Belgian by birth, a diplomat by his calling, who was going to
Constantinople in the capacity of a Secretary of Legation. If the
gentleman felt some surprise at the rage of declamation prompting a
person wet to the skin to recite verses at night, his astonishment
increased considerably upon seeing me next morning in broad daylight
shabbily attired. He, nevertheless, seemed to have formed no mean
opinion of me; he asked me to come and see him in Pera, and promised me
his protection to the extent of his power.

We were favoured by the fairest weather from Varna to Constantinople,
and nothing more charming could be imagined than this our voyage. The
sailing through the most delightful sea road of the world, vulgarly
called the Bosphorus, is apt to affect the dullest spirit, and
roused--it is needless to say--the utmost enthusiasm in me. But upon
looking about me, and seeing before me the dense forest of masts and
flags in the Golden Horn, I fancied I was placed, as it were, in the
very centre of the world; and as my fellow passengers were dropping
away, one by one, all hurrying in different directions to the shore, a
feeling of my forlornness burst upon me. My spirits were damped and I
felt anxious and ill at ease.

[Illustration: THE BOSPHORUS.]

Of the fifteen florins I had brought with me from Pesth, I had left just
enough to pay my fare on the boat which took me to the shore. I now set
my foot on Turkish ground, if not with a light heart, certainly with a
very light purse, and sauntered pretty recklessly up the narrow street
leading to the heights of Pera.

With a spirit less adventurous and at a more sensible age than mine, I
should have asked myself: "Where will you sleep to-night, what will you
eat--and, altogether, what will you begin to do?" But I never put these
questions to myself--I was blind in my enthusiasm. I was quietly
stopping to look at some signs, covered with Turkish inscriptions, and
was busy deciphering them, when a stranger, a Hungarian, whose curiosity
had been roused by the long ribbon which floated from my Hungarian hat,
stepped up to me. He inquired in Italian about my nationality and my
place of destination, and upon learning that I was a Hungarian he, as a
countryman and a political refugee, of course, immediately addressed me
in Hungarian, much to the delight of both of us.

Mr. Püspöki had been an honest mechanic in his own country; he was
earning a living in Turkey by being, in turn, an officer of the line, a
sutler during the Crimean war, an accounting clerk on board of a ship,
and, finally, when I met him, a cook. He was occupying a small,
poverty-stricken room, on the ground floor, in the dirty quarter of the
town which lies in the rear of the walls of the palace of the English
Embassy; its modest furniture consisting solely of a mattress, running
along the wall, which he shared with me, like a brother.

I shall never forget my first night on this couch. My hospitable
countryman had been fast asleep for some time, whilst I, unable to close
my eyes, was still pondering over the strange beginning of life in
Turkey. I became, all of a sudden, aware that now one, and again the
other, of my boots were moving about, by themselves.

"Friend," I said, first in a whisper, and gradually raising my voice, "I
think they are carrying away my boots."

He only muttered something unintelligible in reply. I repeated my
remark, and the good man finally exclaimed with some ill-humour:

"Do sleep! It is nothing but rats playing."

A very amusing game, indeed, I thought, provided they do not chew up my
boots; and I turned to sleep again.

I spent about three days in that miserable hole. I soon extended my
acquaintance with my countrymen, and obtained, through them, permission
to live in one of the rooms occupied by the "Magyar Club," which was at
that time already nearly deserted. At this place I met with fewer
frolicsome animals, but the skipping animals were all the more numerous;
and one evening, when, suffering from the chilliness of the night, I
ventured to ask the secretary of the club to give me something to cover
myself with, that worthy gentleman took the tricolour off the flagstaff,
and handed it to me, apostrophizing me in the following touching
manner:

"Friend! this flag has fired the hearts of many in their heroic flights,
it was itself once full of fire; wrap yourself up in it, dream of
glorious battlefields, and maybe it will keep you warm too."

And, oddly enough, I wrapped the old rag around me, shivered yet for a
little while, and then fell into a sound sleep.

Several days had passed in this manner. Day by day the circle of my
acquaintances was increasing, and all of them were particularly struck
with the varied knowledge I exhibited in the matter of languages, and my
being able to speak fluently and read easily the language of the
country, without having lived in Turkey, was to them a subject of
special wonder.

To give instruction in the languages used in the country, with a view to
earning my daily bread, suggested itself as the most natural thing.
Written advertisements of my desire were distributed, and the first
lesson I was to give was, oddly enough, in Danish.

Mr. Hübsch, a noble-minded gentleman of culture, whom I shall always
remember with pleasure, had been for some time back in search of a
Danish master, and was really glad to meet me; indeed, he made such
rapid progress as to be able, in the course of a few months, to read,
under my direction, Andersen's "Spilleman" and "Berlingske Tidninger."

Beginning with this odd lesson, I soon obtained other engagements as a
teacher, which I should never have hoped to obtain. The all-promising
advertisements did not fail to produce their effects; and one day, when
I happened to be at the book-shop of Mr. S., a young Turk, whose large
retinue showed him to be a man of means, came in and inquired after the
Madjarli, whose name he had seen in the shop-window--and whom he wished
to engage as a "Khodja," or teacher of the French language.

The young Bey was, as I had afterwards occasion to learn, a "Miraskhor,"
that is, a person who has just come into possession of a rich
inheritance, and is trying to acquire the external attributes suitable
to his wealth. In Turkey, at that time, these attributes were as
follows: (1) a suit of the finest broadcloth, after the latest cut and
fashion; (2) tight patent leather shoes; (3) a small, jaunty fez,
rakishly worn on one side of the head, and, as a matter of course,
gloves, too; (4) an easy, graceful step, accompanied by a fashionable
carriage of the arms and hands; and (5) French conversation. European
tradesmen had provided him with the first four ingredients for the
make-up of a Turkish gentleman, and I was to furnish him with the fifth.
I was, accordingly, engaged on the spot as his teacher, the remuneration
stipulated for being ten piastres for one hour's lesson daily, besides
my expenses of going to his house and returning, as our dandy was living
at some distance in Skutari.

This lesson procured me the opportunity of gaining admission for the
first time into a genuine Turkish house. I arrived every day punctually
at the appointed hour, but generally found my pupil, who had just roused
himself from his slumbers, still suffering from the effects of last
night's debauch, and scarcely able to lift his heavy eyelids; nor did I
discover in him the slightest disposition to acquire the language of the
Gauls. It took him an entire month to master the alphabet.

I usually found my pupil in the company of a venerable mollah, who
fairly shuddered whenever the sounds of a language of the Giaours
reached his ears, for the father of my pupil was a notoriously pious
Mussulman, and the walls of the room in which we sat had only re-echoed
until now the canting recitals of the Koran, the sacred hymns, and other
prayers.

I often heard the mollah muttering in his beard, "This is the way in
which the spirit of infidelity is being smuggled into our houses."

I need not say that the instruction I imparted was highly profitable to
myself. We did at first some French, but later on we glided from the
French lesson into explanatory sketches of European life and European
ideas. I told the Bey of our social, political, and scientific
institutions, decking them out, as a matter of course, in their
brightest colours, for the European, during his first stay in the East,
is always looking back with fondness to the West he has just left, and
the very things he used to condemn look to him charming at a distance.

My information was almost always received with approval and admiration.
Turkey had just seen a good specimen of Europe in her Anglo-French
allies who had come to her assistance against the Russians; the Turks
were, therefore, eager to learn all the particulars having reference to
the Western land, and if the descriptions of these excited now and then
their envy, roused them to disapproval or called out their conceit, they
were always listened to, and that with pleasure.

At the close of the lesson a well-prepared and abundant breakfast was
always brought in, and I must own that from the very first the cooking
of the better classes in Constantinople had enlisted my gastronomic
partiality. It frequently happened, too, that we started immediately
after breakfast for a ride on horseback, my pupil making his calls in my
company; in short, I passed a considerable portion of the day in the
society of Turks, and I used to return to Pera, that is, to European
life, in the evening only.

My permanent stay amongst Turks dates, however, from the time when, at
the recommendation of a countryman of mine, I was invited by Hussein
Daim Pasha, general of a division, to enter his house as the teacher of
his son, Hassan Bey.

I removed my quarters from Pera to the charmingly situated row of houses
at Fyndykly; there I got a separate room, and enjoyed for the first time
the amenities of Oriental quiet and Turkish comfort. The life in a
strictly Mohammedan part of the town, in the vicinity of a mosque, from
whose slender minaret the Ezan resounded with gloomy melancholy,
affecting my ears with its weird-like sounds; the grand prospect from my
window taking in the sea near by, with its thousand crafts, and the
magnificent Beshikash palace; and the dignified and patriarchal air
which pervaded the whole house--were all things which had the charm of
novelty for me, and which I can never forget.

The figure of the major domo (Vekilkhardj), a gray-bearded Anatolian,
however, has perhaps made the deepest impression upon my memory. The
good man was particularly indulgent towards me upon all occasions when I
happened to sin against the strictly Oriental customs; he took great
pains to teach me how to sit decorously, that is, with crossed legs; he
taught me to carry my head and to use my hands with propriety, and how I
should yawn, sneeze, and so forth. His attention embraced the merest
trifles.

"You are, for the first time, in a large city; you have just entered
polite society," he benignly said, "and you must learn everything."

Of course the old man looked upon me as a person coming from the land of
"black infidelity," a land to which, in his opinion, decency, good
manners, and morals were utter strangers, and he seemed to think that a
stranger hailing from those parts needed to be educated quite as much as
a Turkish peasant from the neighbourhood of Kharput and Diarbekir.

The pasha himself, my chief, was a much more interesting personage. It
was he who afterwards became known as the leader of the celebrated
Kuleili conspiracy, a conspiracy whose object was nothing less than the
removal of Sultan Abdul Medjid and of all his grandees; the conspirators
flattering themselves with the belief that all the causes of the decay
of Turkey would be thereby extirpated, and that, with one stroke, the
old and infirm Ottoman Empire could be restored to its ancient power.

I was an inmate of his house at the time when this notorious conspiracy
was being hatched and the plans for its consummation formed. A mollah
from Bagdad, by the name of Ahmed Effendi, a man of rare mental gifts,
immense reading, ascetic life, and boundless fanaticism was the life and
soul of the whole conspiracy. He had taken part in the whole of the
Crimean war as a Gazi (a warrior for religion), bareheaded and
barefooted, and clad in a garb whose austere simplicity recalled the
primitive ages of Islam. His sword never left his lean loins, nor his
lance the firm grasp of his clenched fist, either by day or by night,
except when he said his prayers, five times a day. Through the snow, in
the storm, in the thickest of the fight on the battlefield, during
toilsome marches, everywhere could be discovered the ghost-like form of
this zealot, his fiery eyes scattering flames, and always at the head of
the division, under the command of my chief.

It was quite natural that such a man should please Hussein Daim Pasha.
The acquaintance begun in the camp, had here grown into a sort of
relationship by consanguinity; for the lean mollah, who was walking
about barefoot in Constantinople, had the privilege of crossing even the
threshold of the harem, where, under the protection of the sacredness of
Turkish family life, unwelcome listeners could be most conveniently got
rid of. There was something in the appearance of Ahmed Effendi which
terrified me at first, and only, later, upon my allowing myself to be
called by my pasha, for the sake of intimacy, Reshid (the brave, the
discreet), came this terrible man near me, with some show of
friendliness; he probably concluding, from my having adopted this name,
that I was very near being converted to Islam. A very false inference!
But I did not destroy the hopes of the zealot, gaining thereby his
good-will, and getting him to give me instruction in Persian.

Ahmed Effendi allowed me even to visit him in his cell in the yard of
the mosque. And oh! how interesting were those hours which I spent,
sitting at his feet, with other youths who were eager to learn! It
seemed as if I had got hold of a fairy key unlocking, to my dazzled eyes
in one moment, the whole of Mohammedan Asia.

Ahmed Effendi had an astonishing, almost supernatural memory; he was a
thorough Arabic and Persian scholar, and knew a whole series of classics
by heart. I had only to begin with a line from Khakani Nizami or Djami,
in Spiegel's Persian Chrestomathy, and he would at once continue to
recite the whole piece to the end. Indeed he would have been able to go
on with his declamation for hours.

To this Ahmed Effendi I was indebted, more than to anybody else, for my
transformation from a European into an Asiatic. In speaking of my
transformation, I trust the friendly reader will not suppose, for one
moment, that a more intimate acquaintance with Asiatic modes of thought
had led my mind away from the spirit of the West. A thousand times, no!
Rather the reverse was the case. The more I studied the civilization of
Islam and the views of the nations professing it, the higher rose, in my
estimation, the value of western civilization.



III.

LIFE IN STAMBUL.


In the year 1860, I was, perhaps, the only European who had an easy and
uninterrupted access to all classes of Turkish society, and, probably,
saw at that time more of genuine Stambul life than any one before me.
And, surely, no one will find fault with me, if I recall now, in the
midst of my European life, with undisguised pleasure, the generous
hospitality I have met with, at the hands of the noblest Turks, in their
own houses. The easy affability of persons of high positions in the
State, the utter absence of all pride or over-bearing superciliousness,
are virtues, indeed, which would often be looked for in vain in our
civilized West. The stupid pomposity, ridiculous arrogance and pitiable
ignorance of certain aristocracies present a miserable picture, when
contrasted with the behaviour of the Asiatic grandees, whom it is the
custom to sneer at in Europe. The Oriental is particular about nobility
of blood only in the matter of his horses and sporting dogs, whereas,
with us, the select are boasting of such "animal advantages" that I
should like to know in what country of Europe an unknown stranger might
succeed, solely by dint of his eagerness to learn, in obtaining access
to the most distinguished circles, and gaining their good-will and
protection. With us, to be sure, there is no lack either of protectors
and patrons of exalted station, who assist the man of books and art, but
in this they never approach the intimacy and close friendship which
patrons bestow in the East upon intellectual pursuits. In Europe, the
possessors of long pedigrees, the owners of family trees with decayed
roots and worm-eaten bark, have frequently assigned to them the
leadership in society, but not so in Asia. The Arabs will boast of the
heroic deeds and generous actions of their ancestors, but not for their
own exaltation, as is the case in many countries of Europe.

In passing over to my literary pursuits, during my stay in Stambul, I
will only mention that I published, in 1858, a German-Turkish
dictionary, a small volume, of the imperfections and shortcomings of
which, I am by no means unaware; but it was the first that had been
written, and is, to this day, the only available one which a German
traveller, coming to Constantinople, can get. There were two main points
which I had principally in view in my studies of Turkish literature. I
had, in the first place, found, in the history of the Ottoman Empire, so
much that was of interest to the history of my own country, that I felt
impelled to make a translation of it. Through these translations, I
entered, at an early period, into relations with the Hungarian Academy.
The Ottoman historians are wanting, for the most part, in critical
judgment, but the laborious and circumstantial completeness of their
information frequently proves useful. It may not be generally known
that the Turkish Sultans who, at the head of their destructive armies,
made inroads into the South-eastern part of Europe, and against whom so
many Crusades were preached, were constantly accompanied, at every step
they took, by imperial historiographers, and have done more for Clio,
the Muse, than many a truly Catholic prince of that time.

I had found, in the second place, in the course of my linguistic
researches in the study of Eastern Turkish, a field which had been, at
that time, barely cultivated, and devoted to it my full attention.
Besides the manuscripts I got hold of in the various libraries, which
were of great assistance to me in my studies, I frequented the _Tekkes_
(cloisters), inhabited by the Bokhariots, and provided myself, moreover,
with a view to attaining to a thorough understanding of these works,
with a teacher who was a native of Central Asia. Mollah Khalmurad, as my
teacher was called, acquainted me with the customs and modes of thought
of Central Asia. I used to hang passionately on his lips when he was
relating stories about Bokhara and Samarkand, and told of the Oxus and
Taxartes, for he had travelled a great deal in his own country. He had
already made two pilgrimages to the holy cities of Arabia, and
possessed, to a high degree, the cunning and clearsightedness peculiar
to every Asiatic, but particularly to the much-travelled Asiatic.

This perspicacity of theirs caused me to tremble for my life more than
once during my wanderings as a dervish.

Apart from a scientific, I felt an engrossing national, interest in the
study of the Eastern Turkish language, on account of the rich Eastern
Turkish vocabulary to be met with in the Magyar language, my own beloved
mother tongue.

Stambul life with all its attractions and interesting phenomena
produced a feeling of weariness in me after a while. My frequent visits
to Pera, my passing, in less than half an hour, from the innermost
recesses of Asiatic life to the turmoil of European stir and bustle,
might have continued attractive to me, as giving me an opportunity for
the comparative study of the two civilizations. But amongst the very men
whom I happened to meet, in this Babel of European nationalities, there
were some who fanned the fire within me, and who incited me, that had
remained a thorough European in spite of an Orientalizing of several
years, to the execution of the boldest feats. And did I require these
urgings on--I, who, at the bare mention of the names of Bokhara,
Samarkand, and the Oxus, was in a fever of excitement? Certainly not;
their encouragement seemed to me only a proof of the practicability of
my designs. Indeed, I was quite familiar with the literature of travel
of that day, and the only misgivings I felt were on the score of the
perils of the undertaking.

I had just been revolving in my mind the plan of a journey through Asia,
when I was nominated, quite unexpectedly, corresponding member of the
Hungarian Academy. This nomination was to be a reward for my translation
of Turkish historical authorities, but it proved an all-powerful
incentive, urging me on to the consummation of my plans for the future.
Considerable changes had by this time taken place in the political life
of Hungary; and when, upon returning in the spring of 1861, after an
absence of several years, I went to Pesth, in order to deliver my
Academic address, it required but a gentle intimation on the part of the
then President of the Academy, Count D., to procure me a travelling
stipend of a thousand florins in bank notes, amounting to six hundred
florins in silver. At home, of course, there were many sceptics who
expressed their doubts as to the success of my undertaking. I was asked
how I could accomplish such a long journey, with scanty means and a
frail body. These gentlemen were not aware that travelling in Asia
required neither legs nor money, but a clever tongue. I paid, however,
but slight attention to such comments.

The "Academy" gave me a letter of introduction and recommendation,
addressed to all the Sultans, Khans, and Begs of Tartary, and drawn up,
for the surer enlightenment of the Tartars, in the Latin tongue! A ready
gallows or executioner's sword, forsooth, this document meant, if I had
produced it anywhere in the desert or along the Oxus. The then
government, too, that is, the viceroyalty, were generous enough to
furnish me with a passport for my journey to Bokhara. I did not thwart
those manifestations of good intentions, and left Pesth, after a stay of
three months, for Constantinople, from which place I was to start, in
the following spring, on my wanderings through the extensive regions of
Central Asia.

My preparations, which took me another six months, had eaten up nearly
one half of the six hundred silver florins, and consisted, chiefly, in
visits to places, where travellers and pilgrims from Central Asia
congregated and could be met with. These people, who were, for the most
part, poor, I remunerated as well as I could, for every piece of
information and for every hour of conversation that I got from them; for
I must observe, here, that already, at the outset, I was tolerably well
acquainted with the colloquial language of the countries on the Oxus.
Indeed, I may add, that many a quarter of a town and region in the
distant Mohammedan East was as familiar to me, from hearsay and reading,
as is the capital on the Seine to a European who has been a reader of
French novels for many years.

Very remarkable and, at times, very amusing was the manner in which my
worthy Stambul friends looked upon my preparations for far-off
Turkestan. A journey prompted merely by a thirst for knowledge is
characterized by the modern Mohammedans as, to say the least, eccentric;
for the days of Masudi, Yakut, Ibn Fozlan and Batutah have passed away,
ever so long ago. But if any one purposes to undertake a journey through
inhospitable, barbarous and dangerous countries, they declare such an
enterprise a piece of sheer madness. I can very well recall how these
effeminate Effendis shuddered, and the look of unspeakable pity they
bestowed upon me, when I was expatiating, with the most intense
satisfaction, upon my passage through the deserts. "Allah Akillar" (God
lend him reason), was the pious wish they were all muttering. A person
who will voluntarily leave the delightful Bosphorus, give up the
comfortable life at the house of a Turkish grandee, and resign the
charms of sweet repose, must be, to their thinking, a madman.

And, yet, these good people were deeply concerned to smooth my rough
path, and to retard the certain destruction before me, as much as lay in
their power. Persia was to be the first country on my route, and as a
Turkish ambassador, together with his suite, had been residing, for
years, at Teheran, and the then plenipotentiary of the Sultan, Haidar
Effendi, happened to be a friend of the family of my patron, I received,
in addition to the official recommendation of Aali Pasha, a collective
letter from all the relations and acquaintances of K. . . Bey,
commending unhappy me, in the warmest terms, to his protection. I
obtained also firmans, addressed to the authorities on my route through
Turkish territory, in all of which I was mentioned as the traveller
Reshid Effendi. Of my European descent, of the aims and purposes of my
journeyings, not the slightest mention was made in these documents, and
all I had to do was to act up to the letter and spirit of their
contents; indeed I could do little else if I wished to pass myself off
as a genuine Turk and Effendi from Constantinople.

So much for the practical portion of my preparations. As to the mental
condition I was in, I need not say that the nearer the moment of my
departure approached the stronger became my longing, the more agitated
became my mind. What I had dreamt of as a child, mused upon as a youth,
and what had haunted my eyes, Fata-Morgana-like, during my wanderings
through the literatures of the Occident and Orient, I was to attain at
last, and feast upon it my own bodily eyes. When passion thus, like a
mighty wave, is rolling in upon us, we turn a deaf ear to the voice of
reason and prudence. All I could dread, after all, was bodily want, the
fight with the elements and injury to my health; for, at that time, the
thought of failure, that is, of death, never entered my mind. And now I
ask my friendly reader, what vicissitudes, what privations could I
undergo, which I had not already been subjected to by the hard fate of
my youth? I had been starving up to my eighteenth year, and want of
necessary clothing had been the order of the day with me, since my
earliest youth. I had learned to know the whims and foibles of mankind,
and found that man in the rude Asiatic garb was nearly the same as man
in the civilized European dress; yea, I had met at the hands of the
former so much more pity and kindness, that the frightful picture of
these barbarians, as drawn by our literature, was far from disheartening
me. Only one thing might be taken into consideration, with reference to
the undertaking I had on hand, that, after having already tasted the
sweets of affluence and repose, I was about to venture anew upon a life
of misery and struggles. For I had done well, quite well in
Constantinople, during these years. I had comfortable quarters and a
luxurious fare, and there was even a saddle horse at my disposal, and
thus the only thing that may be said in my praise, is that I exchanged
all these, of my own free will, for the beggar's staff. But good
Heavens! where could we not be led, if spurred on by ambition? And what
is our life worth if ambition is not known, does not exist or has been
blunted? Wealth, distinction and dignities are gaudy toys which cannot
amuse us very long, and of which sound common sense must tire sooner or
later. The consciousness, however, of having rendered to mankind in
general a service ever so slight, is a truly noble and exalting one; for
what is there more glorious than the hope of being able to enrich even
by a single letter the book of intellectual life lying open before us?
Thus I felt and thus I thought, and in these feelings and thoughts I
found the strength to submit to trials and hardships a thousandfold
greater than those I had been subjected to hitherto.

Such were the conditions of my life, under which I left the peaceful
harbour of Constantinople for my voyage to the Black Sea. Unaccompanied
by any friends or parents, I bade farewell to the Golden Horn and to the
Bosphorus as to the place where I enjoyed so many agreeable days of
useful preparation for my future career. As our good ship turned towards
the Asiatic shore, I ventured only to look with a furtive glance towards
the West, uncertain whether I should see it again in my life!



IV.

FROM TREBIZOND TO ERZERUM.


The boom of cannon, sounds of music and shouts of joyous welcome greeted
us, as our ship was approaching the harbour of Trebizond. This solemn
reception was not intended for me, the future dervish, who was setting
out, beggar's staff in hand, to roam through an extensive portion of
classic Asia. The ovation was meant for Emir Muhlis Pasha, the
newly-appointed Governor of Trebizond, who had been our fellow traveller
from Constantinople to this place. The people, very likely, indulged in
the hope that he would bring in his train a happier state of things than
they experienced, and relief from past misery, but they were, in all
probability, doomed to be disappointed in him, as they had been
disappointed in his numerous predecessors before.

Trebizond, the ancient capital of Mithridates, presents a rather fine
appearance, when looked at from the sea. Upon closer inspection, the
city proves finer, by far, than most of the Turkish sea-towns. Muhlis
Pasha, whose acquaintance I had made at Constantinople, proffered me his
hospitality, during the whole of my stay in that town. I mounted one of
the horses held in readiness on the shore, joined the pasha's retinue,
and proceeded with the festive procession towards the governor's palace,
lying to the south. Our troops passed, highly pleased, through the
thronging crowds. The pasha caused some small silver change to be
scattered amongst the populace. There was a great rush and eager
scrambling for the coins, and the lucky ones were loud and voluble in
the expression of their gratitude. I remained only three days in
Trebizond. I employed this short time in the purchase of the necessary
travelling requisites, in the hiring of a horse--in short, in supplying
myself with everything needful for those adventurous wanderings through
Turkey and Persia which I was about to undertake. I resolved to keep up
the part of an Effendi as far as Teheran, but thereafter I wished to
pass myself off only as a Kiatib, a humble scribe who might appeal to
the hospitality of the authorities. My entire luggage consisted of a
_khurdjin_ (carpet-bag), containing a couple of shirts, a few books,
some trifles, two carpets, one to be used as a mattress, the other for a
covering, a small kettle, tea service and cup. The pasha repeatedly
pressed upon me the offer of an escort by two _kavasses_ (policemen),
not so much as a matter of safety as from considerations of display,
customary in these parts. I declined his kind offer with thanks, and in
the company of an Armenian _surudji_ (an owner and driver of horses),
left the Turkish seatown on the 21st day of May, 1862, wending my way
towards the mountains stretching to the east.

The sun had already risen pretty high. I advanced, at a slow pace, along
the highway, extending to about an hour's walking distance from the
city, and then losing itself in the deep gorge of a valley. My Armenian
companion, Hadjator, reminded me that in getting near the valley we
should soon lose sight of the sea. I stopped on the height, for a few
moments, to give a farewell look to it. However stormy and rough at
times, it was just then lying as calm and peaceful before my eyes as the
water of a lake. I felt at this moment but faint forebodings of the
trials and dangers lying in wait for me; but faint as they were, they
sufficed, as I gazed upon the dark, endlessly-stretching waves of the
Euxine, to affect me most deeply. There, at my feet, was Trebizond; I
could clearly discern the whole harbour, and as I caught sight of the
Austrian ship in which I had come, the flag on the masthead beckoning a
farewell to me, a feeling of deep melancholy took possession of my whole
being. For six mortal hours on that day I continued, without
interruption, my march on horseback. They were a miserable six hours.
Although nature was very charming and beautiful all around me, it did
not prevent me from feeling extreme weariness in all my limbs. To travel
on horseback is in the beginning a rather painful thing, but it is
infinitely more so if one is obliged to hire the horse one rides from a
surudji. These men employ their animals, chiefly, in the transportation
of luggage, and the horses have, in consequence, such a jostling gait
that their riders must ache all over upon descending, and they are so
indolent, besides, that one must make good use of one's hands and feet
to make them move on. Near Köpri I put up at a _khan_ (an inn). I had to
sleep, nomad fashion, on the ground, but, owing to my excessive fatigue,
sleep would not come to my eyes. The place was swarming with horses and
mule-drivers, of whom some would scrub their animals, or cook, others
sing, and others again chat. It seemed to me as if all this din had
been especially got up to disturb my slumbers. I rose into a sitting
posture, where I had been lying, and sadly reflected upon the fatigues
to come.

After a short nap, I was called by my Armenian. "Bey Effendi," he said,
"I think you must feel rested from the fatigues of yesterday's march.
Our road to-day will be harder; you will not be able to sit comfortably
in the saddle in the mountains of Trebizond, and you will therefore do
better to walk up, leisurely, to the top, before it gets warmer." I left
my couch at once and followed the steep mountain path. I could not help
wondering at the mules' toiling up the steep height and reaching the
top, with their heavy loads, whilst, to me, on foot, without any
incumbrance, the ascent was most painful. On our way we met a long line
of overloaded mules, descending amidst the wild screams of their Persian
drivers. It is a rare sight to watch them advancing, with the utmost
care, without any accident, upon the slippery path cut into the rock,
scarcely two spans wide, flanked by the bottomless abyss. And yet it is
a very unusual thing for a mule to be precipitated into the abyss
yawning along the path. If ever it happens it is in winter. The danger
is greatest when two caravans happen to meet face to face. In order to
avoid such an encounter, big bells, heard at a great distance, are used
by them, warning the caravans to keep out of each other's way.

The continuously steep ascent lasted over four hours. There is hardly a
worse road in all Asia; yet this is the only commercial road which
connects Armenia with Persia, nay Central Asia with the West. During the
summer hundreds of thousands of these animals are traversing this route,
going and coming, loaded with the products of Asia and the manufactures
of Europe.

I was indebted to my title of Effendi for quieter sleeping quarters at
the tolerably crowded Khan at our next station. Before retiring to rest
I took the advice of Hadjator, and bathed in salt water those parts of
my body which were sore with my riding exertions; the sensation was at
first a stinging one, but sitting in the saddle next day was not quite
so uncomfortable as before.

Upon reaching the third station, on the 23rd of May, two Armenians
joined me. One of them began to speak first French, and then English
with me. He was a merchant from Tebriz, who had spent several years in
England on matters of business, and was now returning to his native
town. We became quite intimate after a while, and his society was all
the more agreeable to me as he knew very well the route on which we were
to travel together for a considerable time. Three days after that, upon
leaving the Khoshab Bunar mountains and descending, we met a Shiraz
caravan on our way. I was struck by the shape of the tall hats of the
men running into a point. They were gaily stepping alongside of their
mules, loaded with the produce of their native country, and I was
delighted to hear the songs of Hafiz sung by the leader of the caravan,
the youths who were following him joining in chorus every now and then.
These were the first Iranian (Persian) words which I heard from the
natives themselves. I wished to enter into a conversation with them, but
they did not deign to reply. Singing they toiled uphill on the rough
road, because, as I was afterwards told by my guide, the animals march
more cheerfully at the sound of singing.



V.

FROM ERZERUM TO THE PERSIAN FRONTIER.


I arrived in Erzerum on the 28th of May. In entering this town I was, at
once, aware that I was now in the interior of Asia. The houses are here
already built in the Eastern fashion; the walls, built of stone or mud,
are clumsy and running irregularly in a zigzag line, with windows
looking out into the yard rather than the street; secret entrances, and
other like things characteristic of Eastern houses.

At Erzerum I was staying at the house of the Circassian, Hussein Daim
Pasha, the commanding officer of the place, with whom I had been already
acquainted at Constantinople. I had instructed his son in French, and in
European sciences. When I told him of my Bokhara plan he was very much
surprised, and at first tried to dissuade me from it, but promised me,
afterwards, to furnish me with letters of recommendation to some of the
prominent Sheikhs of the Turkestan capital. I met amongst the other
governmental officers, at Erzerum, some whom I had known in Stambul,
and I called upon them at their offices. I shall never forget the
appearance of the offices of the Turkish government. The entrance was
nearly barricaded by a promiscuous heap of shoes, sticks, weapons and a
troop of dogs lying everywhere about. The interior corresponded with the
outside. On a couple of dirty, ragged divans were seated several
officials; in one part of the room a group of women were quarrelling, in
another a humorous individual was entertaining the officers, and in
another, again, some one gave vent to his complaints, interspersed with
oaths.

Evidences of the poverty of the inhabitants of Erzerum meet the eye in
whatever direction one may look. The dirt, the squalor and the
underground dwellings are unbearable. The smell of their food, which
they cook by the fire made of a fuel called _tezek_ (cattle dung), is
especially loathsome.

I was almost glad when I left this place on the 29th of May, about dusk,
in company of my Armenian fellow-traveller. It might have been about
midnight when we heard the loud barking of dogs, an indication of the
propinquity of human habitations. I rode ahead, over ditches and bushes,
towards the lights twinkling from the scattered houses. Everybody in the
place was sunk in sleep, and it was only owing to my Effendi way of
talking that I succeeded in procuring, for myself and my companion,
quarters for the night. The name of the village was Kurudjuk, and the
house where we happened to obtain accommodation belonged to the Kizil or
chieftain of the place. The dwellings hereabouts consist, usually, of
only one room, in which both men and domestic animals live promiscuously
together. The cattle are tied on to the crib running along two sides of
the spacious room, and the human beings occupy the _saku_, a species of
elevated platform. It may be justly said that people, here, are living
in stables. One may imagine what an agreeable thing it is to pass the
night in the society of from forty to fifty buffaloes, and a couple of
calves and a horse. Add to it that there is not a solitary window to
this barn. More squalid and miserable dwellings there cannot perhaps be
met with in the whole of Asia, than those in the environs of Erzerum.
One may then appreciate the feeling of pleasure with which the traveller
exchanges the foul air of his night quarters for the sweet morning air
of the spring.

After a ride of nearly four hours we reached _Hassankale_, a place
situated on a promontory. It is fortified against the attacks of the
marauding Kurds, living in the country. They hardly dare, it is true, to
make a raid upon the villages nowadays, but smaller caravans and the
solitary traveller are still exposed to the fury of their marauding
propensities. For the sake of safety we had with us two _kavasses_
(mounted policemen). I myself had, indeed, nothing to fear from attack,
but, out of regard for my Armenian companions, who had about them
valuable trinkets which they had brought with them from Europe, I made
use, on their behalf, of the firman given to me, as an Effendi, by the
governor of Erzerum.

Upon crossing the Araxes river, we arrived ere long at the frontier of
Kurdistan proper, whose inhabitants had already enjoyed, in the age of
Herodotus, the unenviable reputation of being thieves and robbers of the
worst kind. We noticed on our march a lofty rock--and one of our guides
told us that the renowned Korouglu had lived on the top of it. He is the
most celebrated hero-adventurer of Mohammedan popular poetry; his
miraculous feats are told in song, at feasts and on the battlefield,
alike by the Turks on the Oxus, the Anatolians near the Mediterranean,
and the Roumelians by the waves of the Danube.

As we were passing through a narrow mountain defile my Armenian
companions set to loading their guns and pistols, saying: "We shall meet
henceforth no more Osmanlis; only Kurds and Armenians are living here."
Letters of recommendation and polite requests have no effect upon the
Kurds; if you wish to keep them in awe you must meet them well armed.

At a Kurdistan village, called _Eshek-Eliasz_, we hired two men to
accompany us, and we started on our way at the dawn of morning. It was a
murky gloomy morning, the tops of the distant mountains were clouded by
the fog. We sent the loaded animals ahead, and sat down at the foot of
the mountain to make our tea. In the damp and chilly hours of the early
dawn tea is a most refreshing beverage, and after having taken a cup or
two we remounted our horses in order to overtake our beasts of burden.
We overtook them after half an hour's trot, and saw them peaceably
advancing along the ridge of the mountain. The rays of the sun had now
scattered the fog, and looking about me, admiring the beautiful mountain
scenery, I happened to observe that one of our Kurdistan followers was
glancing now at the luggage-carriers, now at his companion, betraying
great uneasiness. "What is it, what is it?" I asked. Instead of any
reply he merely pointed in the direction where the servants of my
Armenian companions and a couple of mule drivers were marching on. We
looked and saw armed Kurds, on horseback and on foot, rushing in upon us
from the right and the left, making straight for the animals laden with
precious and valuable goods. "Robbers! Robbers!" shouted the Armenian
Karabegoff, who had been in Europe. Quickly seizing his revolver, he
rushed forward, followed by his friend and myself, but, although I
urged on my horse in every conceivable manner, I was the third and last
to arrive upon the scene of action. I still wore, at that time, a brass
plate on my fez, in token of my dignity, as an Effendi. The Kurds had
scarcely caught sight of me, when they suddenly stopped within a few
steps from the badly frightened group of people. "What do you want
here?" I asked them in a voice of thunder. An old, one-eyed man, armed
with a shield, lance, rifle and sword, now stepped forward, and said:
"Bey Effendi, our oxen have strayed from us, and we have been looking
for them all night. Hast thou not met with them somewhere on thy way?"

"And is it customary to look for oxen, armed as thou art?" said I.
"Shame on thee! Has thy beard turned grey to be soiled by thieving and
robbery? If I did not regard thy old age I should take thee at once
before the Kaimakam of Bayazid, thou insolent waylayer!"

My words and the explanations of my Kurd followers caused the band of
marauders, consisting of eight men, very soon to understand with whom
they had to deal. They are not much afraid of Armenians and Persians as
a usual thing, but they do not deem it advisable to attack an officer of
the Sultan. I still added a few threats to my former severe reprimands,
and we had soon the satisfaction of seeing the robbers disband and quit
us. We too continued our march, during which the Armenians never tired
of expressing their gratitude to me. If it had not been for me, they
said, all the valuables brought with them from London would have fallen
into the hands of the Kurds. I especially remarked, during the affray,
the dismay and pallor of several Persian merchants who had joined us the
day before. These men brought me, as we were about to retire to rest,
various sweetmeats, as an acknowledgment of my services. I could not
help admitting that, in the eyes of the Kurds, the dignity of an Effendi
carried considerable weight.

We came in the evening to a village called _Mollah Suleiman_, inhabited,
chiefly, by Armenians. At the sight of my Kurdistan followers, our
landlord took me aside and said to me in a whisper: "Effendi, thou
mayest well deem thyself fortunate for having escaped unhurt. Thy
followers are known, far and wide, as the most desperate robbers; they
have never before escorted any one across the Dagar mountain but some
ill befell him." In an instant the whole adventure became clear to me.
These two Kurd fellows were in league with the robbers, and but for my
friend's revolver and my Effendi headgear the day might have proved
fatal to all of us. Such occurrences are by no means rare in this
region. The people and the authorities are well aware of the frequent
cases of brigandage; they know who the brigands are; but, nevertheless,
everybody is left to his own bravery to defend himself.

Our Armenian host, who had received his fellows in faith and myself with
great cordiality, had a sumptuous supper prepared for us; the priest,
clergyman and the judge of the village too, came to pay their respects,
and there was no end to tales of robbery. In the autumn before, we were
told, a caravan, consisting of forty beasts of burden and fifteen men,
amongst whom there was an Englishman, was attacked by a robber chief and
twelve men. No sooner had the Kurds, with their customary cry of
"Lululu!" come upon them, than the Persians and Turks took to their
heels, and allowed the brigands to freely rummage in the luggage,
without molesting them. They had already driven away a couple of
animals, when the Englishman, who had hitherto coolly stood by and
watched the doings of the miscreants, raised his revolver without being
observed, took deliberate aim at the chief and levelled him to the
ground. The Kurds stood for a moment dumbfounded with fright, but they
soon recovered and made a simultaneous rush upon the Englishman. The
latter, who did not for an instant lose his presence of mind, shot dead
another and then again another man, crying out to them fiercely: "Do not
come near me or I will kill every one of you." This had its effect; one
by one the remaining Kurds slunk away. The family of the dead chief
instituted a suit for damages against the Englishman, claiming that the
chief had been out hunting, and not robbing, when he was killed. The
Turks treated the claim quite seriously, and, in all probability, would
have mulcted the brave Englishman in damages but for the intercession of
the British Consul.

The rain was pouring down violently when we left our hospitable host
next day, and at night we had to put up at an Armenian village,
containing about ten houses; for it was too late for us to reach on that
day _Diadin_, the next place on our journey. The inhabitants of that
village are leading a strange life. Man and beast, food and fuel are all
stowed away under one roof, and whilst one part of the inhabitants are
sleeping the others mount guard, on the roofs, with their arms in
readiness. I asked several of them why they did not ask assistance of
the governor of Erzerum, and was told, in reply: "That the governor was
himself at the head of the thieves. God alone, and his representative on
earth, the Russian Tzar, can help us." And the poor people were
certainly right in this.

We forded through the Euphrates river and reached, before long, a
monastery, the inmates of which were Armenian friars who were held in
high respect by all the inhabitants of the surrounding country, both
Christian and Mohammedan. It is a strikingly characteristic feature of
all Eastern nations, that with them friars, monks, wizards, and
fortune-tellers are indiscriminately, without regard to their religion,
the objects of deep veneration. The supernatural, the mysterious excite
the humility of the Eastern man, and the Kurds go far away, to distant
countries, in pursuit of their predatory ventures, leaving this solitary
and unprotected settlement unmolested.

Towards evening we arrived at the border place, Diadin. After
considerable inquiry we succeeded in finding the house of the judge, at
whose hands we desired to procure accommodation for the night. On
looking round there, I saw, sitting in a corner of the barn, an American
minister, with his wife and children and his sister. They had been
living in Urumia (in Persia) for several years, and were now on their
way home, to Philadelphia. Urumia and Philadelphia, what a distance! But
the members of the missionary society know no distance.

The Kurdistan Kizil, _i.e._, chieftain, received me very kindly, and
upon my asking him for a night's quarters, he replied: "Effendi, thou
art welcome, but I can give thee no accommodation, unless thou desirest
to share with a soldier-pasha the only spare room in my house."

"Soldier-pasha, or anybody else in the wide world," I replied. "Just
show me into the room. A ride of ten hours will tame a very Satan.
Besides, I think, the stranger and I will very well agree together."

The Kurd, holding a small oil-lamp in his hand, preceded me, and took me
to a place looking like a lumber-room. The soldier-pasha was squatting
in one corner. In approaching him, to introduce myself, I recognized in
the stranger, to my great surprise, General Kolmann, otherwise called
Fejzi Pasha, one of my dearest friends. "Well, this is a wonderful
meeting," he said, after our greetings were over, and we had settled
ourselves, opposite to one another, near the fire. General Kolmann, a
distinguished member of the Hungarian emigration, had always befriended
me in the most zealous manner, during the whole of my stay in Turkey. He
knew of my plans for travelling, and was overjoyed, beyond all measure,
to have an opportunity of saying "Good-bye" to me here, at the frontier
of Turkey, where he had been detailed by the government to superintend
the building of border barracks. We whiled away the time with chatting
until late into the night, and it was with a heavy heart that I took
leave next morning of my countryman and of that country to which, for
the time being, I belonged.



VI.

FROM THE PERSIAN BORDER TO TEBRIZ.


Kizil-dize is the name of the first village on Persian soil. Leaving it
we came to the base of _Ararat_. Mount Ararat, whose tapering head is
covered with snow even in summer, was at that season clad in its wintry
garb to more than half its height. The inhabitants of the surrounding
country all insist that the remains of Noah's Ark may still be seen on
its top, and many a _vartabet_ (priest), rich in grace, boasts of having
seen with his own eyes the precious relics of the holy Ark in the
waters, clear as crystal, of a lake on the top of the mountain. Others,
again, produce chips from the remains of the Ark, and recommend it
highly against pain in the stomach, sore eyes, and other maladies; and
woe to him who would dare to cast the slightest doubt upon the
existence, to this day, of at least two planks and a couple of masts of
Noah's Ark on mount Ararat. During my travels in Asia I came across four
other places, of which sacred tradition tells that Noah's Ark had rested
there, and at least four other places, again, where people have
discovered the unmistakable traces of the scriptural Paradise.

[Illustration: MOUNT ARARAT.]

After we crossed the Turco-Persian border line the country became
visibly more and more beautiful, as if Nature meant to support the
haughty presumptuousness of the Persians. The most modest and reserved
of my Persian fellow-travellers kept on saying during the whole journey,
"Iran is a land very different from thine, Effendi! Look out, thou shalt
see wonders." The faces of the Persians beamed with indescribable joy
from the moment they had set their eyes upon the first Persian village,
for the poor fellows had a great deal to suffer, all the way from
Erzerum, in the numerous Armenian villages. According to the rigid
Shi-ite law, not only is the Christian impure, but he defiles everything
he touches, and the pious Shi-ite will rather starve than eat of any
food a Christian had come in contact with.

We slept for the first time on Persian soil, in _Ovadjik_. Here, in
Iran, I thought it advisable to part with my dignity of Effendi, for in
the country of the Shi-ites, everything that approaches, in the least,
the Sunnite faith of the Turks, is hated and despised, although both
sects are professors of Islam.

We started early in the morning, on the 5th of June, and as our way was
to lead us, on that day, through the _Karaayne_ mountains, which did not
enjoy the best reputation for safety, my Armenian companions thought it
proper to provide themselves with the escort of a small number of
mounted armed men. Fortunately nothing unpleasant happened. We came to
_Karaayne_ early in the afternoon, and I was delighted to hear issuing,
from the house opposite to our quarters, sounds of music, the report of
firearms, and shouts of merriment. They were celebrating a wedding, and,
upon my question, if the wedding folks would have any objection to my
going over and looking at them, I was taken there, at once, by the son
of my host. A numerous troop of groomsmen had just arrived when we
entered, in order to conduct the bride from the paternal house to her
husband. They gave notice of their arrival outside by the report of
firearms, then entered, wrapped a red-coloured veil round the bride, led
her out into the street, and two of the groomsmen assisted her to mount
her horse. Although her wide dress, falling down in many folds, impeded
her movements, she sat quite firmly in the saddle. The bride was then
surrounded by the women, singing in chorus a very curious song, the
burden of which, repeated at the end of each stanza, was: "Let friend
remain friend, and the enemy turn blind, O Allah!" At last, the
procession started for the house of the bridegroom. I, too, mixed with
the crowd, accompanying them, and was afterwards invited to take a
prominent seat at the table. Wedding gifts were collected of the guests
during the meal. The marriage rites agreed in every particular with
those used by the Turcomans.

We had proceeded about two hours on the road leading from Karaayne to
_Tchuruk_, our nearest station, when we were startled by a peculiar kind
of barking and howling, coming from the depths of the mountains before
us. We had just reached an eminence on the road. Our little company of
travellers halted at once, and our Persian escort, bending their eyes
anxiously upon the entrance of the deep road, prepared their arms for
action. The howling grew louder and louder, and suddenly a magnificent
stag burst upon our sight, hotly pursued by two wolves. The Persians,
who are very fond of the chase, were electrified by this sight, and two
of them springing forward advanced in a run towards the animal--one of
the two, although running, took such excellent aim at it, that upon his
firing the beautiful deer fell lifeless to the ground. The wolves were
scared by the shooting and ran away. One of the wolves however, as soon
as everything became quiet again, either pushed by hunger, or feeling
sore at the loss of his prey, soon reappeared to our great surprise. The
hunters allowed him to approach, unmolested, within a few paces from the
lifeless stag, and then fired at him, killing him on the spot. Every
member of our small company was delighted with the adventure. We
dismounted, stripped off the skin of the deer, cut him up and set to
work at once to roast the best parts on the spit, leaving the rest of
the carcass and the wolf behind us.

The first place of note the traveller from the west comes to, in Persia,
is called _Khoy_. I was particularly struck by its bazaar. The life and
commotion in it was marked by that primitive quaintness and splendour of
ancient times which are, to a great extent, wanting in the Stambul
bazaars, owing to the influence of the Europeans. Any one who has
witnessed in Khoy, during the hours of the forenoon, the stir and bustle
in the cool and narrow streets, watched the gesticulations of buyers and
sellers, seen the variety of splendid fabrics and arms, and the food
offered for sale, and observed the behaviour of the thronging and
screaming crowd, must own that in the matter of Oriental
characteristics, at least, the bazaar of Constantinople is inferior to
that of Khoy.

The first impression was a truly bewildering and bewitching one, I could
hardly tear myself away from the strange spectacle; the peculiar sounds,
the strange din and noise, the seething life everywhere, were things I
had never witnessed before. As I was entering a place, topped by a
cupola, where about thirty braziers were striking away, with a will,
each at a kettle or pan, I was struck with astonishment upon seeing
that, in the midst of this infernal din, there were, in an unoccupied
portion of the building, two schools in full blast. There sat the
school-master--amongst the children who were ranged round him in the
shape of a half moon--armed with a long stick probably in order to
enable him to reach the children sitting on the hind-most forms. I went
quite near them and listened with the utmost attention, but could not
catch a solitary word, although both teacher and pupils were screaming
at the top of their lungs. The exertion told on them, too, for with
their inflated red faces and starting veins they looked like so many
infuriated turkeys. They pretend, nevertheless, that an improper stress
laid upon any Arabic word in the Koran, by any children, is immediately
observed and duly rebuked by the master.

I was surprised, even more agreeably, by the neat little caravansary
which we entered. The traveller meets everywhere in Arabia and Turkey
with dirty khans only; but here, in Persia, where, from ancient times,
much care has been bestowed upon the comfort and facilities of
intercourse, the caravansaries will be found to be inns which--I am
speaking, of course, of Eastern pretensions--leave nothing to be
desired. These inns stand mostly in the due centre of the bazaar, and
generally form a square building, each side of which is divided off into
a certain number of cells. A half circular opening, doing service both
as a door and window, leads to a terrace-like elevation running round
the building. Beneath it are placed the stables, so that a traveller,
living on the first floor, can be ostler to his own horse, on the ground
floor. This terrace is from four to six feet high, and leads to what is
in reality the yard, in the centre of which there is a well, often
surrounded by a small flower-garden. The cells offer a cool and pleasant
retreat during the day, and a place of safety, for travellers, during
the night. The _dalundar_ (door-keeper), who is stationed at the
cupola-shaped entrance-door, is charged with maintaining order. This
person is quick in discerning the rank and station of a traveller, by
his horse and saddle-gear, and he provides him with corresponding
accommodation. Sentinels are stationed on the flat roofs during the
night, who are scaring away with their monotonous cries all evil-doers,
and it is a rare thing for theft or robbery to be committed at the
caravansaries.

We left Khoy towards evening, on the 8th of June, for fear of being
interrupted in our journey, on account of the feast of _Kuram Bairam_
(the month of merry-making after the fast), and stopped at the village
of _Hadji Aga_, inhabited altogether by _Seids_, that is, descendants of
the prophet. These men are the most pretentious men in all Persia in
their pride of descent, but they are especially arrogant in their
behaviour towards strangers, and indeed one must have Job's patience to
bear their impertinences meekly. No matter how rich they are, they will
beg wherever they see a chance of getting something. Indeed they do not
ask for any alms, but they impose a tax, due to them as the descendants
of the head of Islam. They commit capital crimes, under the plea of
sanctity, and the people rarely dare to call them to account. The
authorities seem to be less indulgent, for I was told that the governor
of Tebriz, to the horror of the whole world, condemned a Seid who had
committed robbery to death by fire. The Mollahs fell to protesting, but
the governor gave them the following reply: "If he is a true Seid he
will not be touched by the flames," and caused the culprit to be cast
into the blazing pile.



VII.

IN TEBRIZ.


Tebriz is a town of remote antiquity, and is said to have been built by
the wife of Harun el Rashid. But of the ancient greatness and splendour
in which Tebriz was said to have once vied with the city of Raghes, very
little is now to be seen. Its commerce, however, is quite as flourishing
to-day as it was reputed to have been in ancient times. The grand life
of the bazaar had surprised me already at Khoy, but compared to that of
Tebriz, it was only a picture in miniature. Here the din and noise, the
stir and bustle, the pushing and elbowing, the stifling crowds are
magnified a hundredfold. At the recommendation of several persons I put
up at the Emir Caravansary, which, however, it took me over an hour to
find. Not being used to this deafening noise, and to pushing through
such dense crowds of people and mules without number, which seemed
perilous to both life and limb, I was apprehensive lest I might at any
moment ride over somebody with my horse. In recalling how the
dervishes were dancing onward ahead of me through this dire confusion,
uttering their unearthly screams, brandishing high, and casting up, into
the air their sharp axes, seizing them again by their handles upon
coming down, I wonder, to this day, how I ever got safely to the Emir
Caravansary.

[Illustration: CITY OF TEBRIZ.]

My Armenian companions ordered a modest cell for me, and, as they had
already reached their place of destination, they parted, with the
promise of returning the next day and installing themselves as my guides
through their native city. I sat down at the door of my narrow little
room and remained there until late in the evening, partly to take some
rest after my previous fatigues, partly to watch the life stirring about
me. Very soon, true to the custom of their country, a curious crowd
gathered around me; by some I was taken to be a merchant and was offered
goods by them, by others a money changer and was asked if I had any
Imperiales or Kopeks which I wished to exchange; others, again, offered
me their services, judging me by my attire to be a member of the embassy
of Teheran. It is wearisome work for a newly-arrived stranger at a
caravansary, this being catechised from all sides.

I passed two entire weeks in Tebriz; I desired to rest after the
fatigues of my long journey, making, at the same time, excellent use of
my leisure in studying the peculiarities of the Shi-ite sect, a study
which revealed to me a great deal that was novel and interesting. I did
so with all the more pleasure as my uninterrupted stay, for many years,
among all the Sunnite circles, my perfect knowledge of their modes of
life, customs, and dispositions, had especially fitted me for
instituting relevant comparisons.

I had been often told that the Shi-ites were the Protestants of Islam,
and their superior intelligence and industry led me to at one time share
this supposition. I was therefore quite astonished to find, on the very
day of my arrival, wherever I turned, instances of a fanaticism far more
savage, and of a sanctimoniousness far more glaring, than I had ever met
with in Turkey. First of all I was disagreeably impressed with the
reserve and spirit of exclusiveness shown by the Persians towards
Europeans. They are commanded by their law, for instance, in case the
hem of a European's garment but happens to touch the dress of a Persian,
that the Persian immediately becomes _nedjiz_, that is, unclean, and
must forthwith resort to a bath to regain his purity. My faith in their
cleanliness, of which they were so fond of boasting, very soon received
a rude shock, in witnessing the following scene. In the centre of the
yard of the caravansary, as everywhere else, is placed a basin full of
water, originally intended for the performance of ritual lavations, but,
as I was watching their proceedings at the basin, I saw that whilst at
one side of the reservoir some were washing their dirty things, others
placing half-tanned skins into the same water for soaking, and a third
was cleansing his baby, there were standing men on the opposite side of
the basin, gravely performing their religious washings with the
identical water, and one of them, who must have been very thirsty
indeed, crouched down and eagerly drank of the dark green fluid. I could
not repress at the sight a manifestation of loathing. A Persian,
standing near, immediately confronted me and reproved me for my
ignorance. He asked me if I did not know that according to the _Sheriat_
(the holy law) a quantity of water, in excess of a hundred and twenty
pints, turns blind, that is, it cannot become soiled or unclean.

In mentioning their fanaticism I cannot omit citing a remarkable
instance of it in the person of one of their wonderful dervishes. This
man happened to pass just then through Tebriz, and was an object of
general admiration at the bazaar. He was thoroughly convinced that the
divinity of the Caliphate, after the death of Mohammed, ought, by right,
to have devolved upon Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law, and not upon Abubekr,
the prophet's brother-in-law. Acting upon this conviction, he had
solemnly vowed, more than thirty years before, that he would never
employ his organs of speech otherwise but in uttering, everlastingly,
the name of his favourite, _Ali! Ali!_ He thus wished to signify to the
world that he was the most devoted partisan of that Ali who had been
defunct more than a thousand years. In his own home, speaking with his
wife, children and friends, no other word but "Ali!" ever passed his
lips. If he wanted food or drink, or anything else, he expressed his
wants still by repeating "Ali!" Begging or buying at the bazaar it was
always "Ali!" Treated ill or generously, he would still harp on his
monotonous "Ali!" Latterly his zeal assumed such tremendous proportions
that, like a madman, he would race, the whole day, up and down the
streets of the town, throwing his stick high up into the air, and shriek
out, all the while, at the top of his voice, "Ali!" This dervish was
venerated by everybody as a saint, and received everywhere with great
distinction. The wealthiest man of a town presented him once with a
magnificent steed, saddle, bridle and all. He immediately vaulted into
the saddle and sped along the streets uttering his customary fierce cry.
The colour of his dress was either white or green, and the staff he
carried corresponded in colour with the dress he wore. When he came to
the front of the Emir Caravansary, he stopped and lifted his voice,
midst the frightful din of the bazaar, with such tremendous power,
shouting "Ali! Ali!" that the veins on his head and neck started out
like strings.

After passing a few days at Tebriz, it dawned upon me that this, indeed,
was genuine Eastern life, and that distant Stambul, the gaudily painted
curtain of the Eastern world, presented but a tame and lifeless and
somewhat Europified picture of the Orient. True, after the first
excitement at the great variety of wonderful sights was over, my mind
immediately reverted to the sweets of Western life, and right glad was
I, therefore, to meet, at the caravansary, with two Swiss gentlemen of
culture, Mr. Würth and Mr. Hanhardt. They at once insisted upon my
moving my quarters to their lodgings, but I declined with thanks,
availing myself, however, at times, of their cordial invitation to take
my meals with them. Through them I became acquainted with other
Europeans residing here, and it was to me a source of great delight to
change about, and after having passed with Europeans a considerable time
discussing Western ideas and conversing in a Western tongue, all of a
sudden to become an Effendi again in some Persian society. My fancy was
tickled by this almost theatrical transition from the East to the West
and back again; I used to indulge in this pastime with great pleasure
while in Stambul.

The Persian world rather wondered at my intimacy with the Europeans, but
refrained from making any comments upon it to me, knowing that the
Sunnites, to whom I was supposed to belong, were far less rigorous than
the Shi-ites in their intercourse with persons differing from them in
faith. If my European friends communicated to me their views of certain
local institutions and customs, I did not accept them unconditionally; I
looked at them, again, in the light shed upon them by the observations
and feelings of the natives on the subject. Should some kind reader wish
to rebuke me for my seeming double-facedness, I have only to say that I
shall meekly submit to it, but that, at the same time, I am indebted to
the acting of this double part for the satisfaction I had in obtaining a
proper insight into native life, and being able to gather many and
varied experiences about the nations of the East, from the Bosphorus to
Samarkand.

It was here, in the Caravansary Emir, that I met with a rather curious
adventure, which I must relate. One afternoon, whilst the heat was
rather unbearably strong, I sat at the door of my cell, and engaged
myself, as is usual with dervishes, in delivering my linen of certain
animals which intrude upon the poor traveller in the East in spite of
all his efforts after cleanliness. Two Englishmen, whom I recognized by
their Indian hats, and who were strolling in the caravansary, stopped
suddenly before me, and after admiring for a while my patient and
untasteful occupation, the younger one said to the older, "Look at the
hunting zeal of this fellow!" I raised my eyes and said in English,
"Will you join, sir?" Amazed, nay bewildered, one of them immediately
asked me, "How did you learn English, and what countryman are you?" From
reasons formerly explained, I abstained from a further conversation, and
notwithstanding all the exertions, I did not utter another English word,
nay, withdrew altogether to the interior of my cell.

Years passed, and after returning to Europe I happened to be at an
evening party in the house of an English nobleman at Whitehall. Whilst
at dinner I recognized in one of the guests present my interlocutor of
Tebriz, but unsure of my discovery I did not address him. After dinner,
however, the lady of the house asked me to relate something of my
perilous adventures, and seeking courage, I asked her to introduce me to
the man in whom I supposed a former acquaintance. "Oh, that is Lord
R----," said the lady. "Well, I don't know his name, but I have seen
him," was my answer. Lord R---- received me politely, but denied the
fact of a former acquaintance. Upon my saying, "My lord, you have been
to Tebriz, and you do not remember the dervish who addressed you in
English?" The extraordinary surprise of Lord R---- was indescribable; he
recognized me at once, and related the whole adventure to the highly
amused company.

The days I spent in Tebriz passed quickly and pleasantly owing to my
intercourse being partly with Europeans and not being exclusively
confined to Asiatics. While I was there, an interesting festival took
place, to which I succeeded in obtaining admission. The solemn
investiture of the recently nominated Veli Ahd (heir apparent to the
throne) gave me an opportunity of gazing upon the pageant and pomp of
the Orient in all its splendour. Muzaffar-ed-din Mirza, the son of the
king, now nine years old, but who, according to the custom of the
country, had been elected, in his childhood, successor to the throne,
was to be publicly invested with the Khalat, the royal parade robe. The
whole town was on the alert. The festival lasted several days, and when,
on its first day, I entered through the gate of the Ala Konak (the royal
residence), which was surrounded by a dense crowd of people, into the
interior court, my curiosity rose to the highest pitch. What a strange
contrast of squalor and splendour, of pomp and misery! There, in the
covered hall, opposite the gate, were seated the grandees of the land,
and amongst them the prince with the principal officers of his
household. Every face wore a solemnly grave expression, and the bearing
of their manly forms, wrapped in flowing garments, the dignified motion
of their arms, the proud carriage of their heads, everything indicated
that they were well versed in the art of exhibiting a public pageant.
Around the interior of the court were ranged two lines of _serbasses_
(soldiers), sad-looking fellows, in European uniforms and with Persian
fur caps on their heads, looking as uncomfortable and awkward as
possible in their foreign clothes. The most comical things about them
were their cravats, some tied in front, others at the back, and others
again anywhere between those two points.

One of the sides of the garden was entirely occupied by loaves of sugar
and various Persian cakes and sweetmeats, which it is the custom to
place upon huge wooden platters, and without which any festive occasion
in Persia would be considered incomplete.

In the centre rose the throne, upon which the young boy-prince, looking
feeble and pale, took his seat, surrounded by his splendid retinue. When
he was seated, the loud booming of cannon was heard, the military band
struck up a martial march, and immediately afterwards appeared the royal
envoy bearing the robe of honour, which he placed upon the shoulders of
the young prince in token of his new dignity. The envoy then produced
the insignia of the diamond order of Shir-ú-Khurshid, fastened it upon
the breast of the princely heir apparent, concluding the ceremony by
suddenly removing a costly carpet which had concealed the portrait of
the king, painted in oil upon canvas. At this moment the whole company
rose to their feet; the young prince rushed forward and imprinted a kiss
upon the portrait, which was then immediately covered up again with the
carpet. Upon the prince returning to his seat from the ceremony of
osculation, the deafening roar of cannon and the swelling sounds of
music were heard again. A high priest came forward and invoked a
blessing upon the prince, the royal order was loudly proclaimed, and
finally a young poet stepped forward, and, taking a seat opposite to the
prince, recited to his glorification a _Kascide_ (glorifying song). The
proceedings of the young poet were quite new to me, and struck me even
more than the bombastic tenor of his poetical effusion. He compared the
prince to a tender rose, to the brilliant sun, and finally to a precious
pearl fished out of the sea of the royal family, and destined to become
now the most precious ornament in the crown of Iran. Then he called him
a powerful hero, who with a single blow of his sword destroys whole
armies, at whose glance the mountains tremble, and the flame of whose
eyes makes the rivers run dry.

The prince then joined the great lords, who were in the background, and
the sweetmeats were removed from the enormous platters and divided
amongst the guests present, the master of ceremonies expressing to each
of them, besides, his thanks for their appearance. And, now, the pageant
was over.

These festivities were followed by the reception of Cerutti, the Italian
ambassador, who, at the head of an embassy consisting of twenty-five
members, was passing through Tebriz, on his way to Teheran. Their
arrival caused a great ferment both amongst the members of the native
government and the European colony. The former, the Persian officials
with the viceregent Serdar-Aziz-Khan, at their head, were delighted to
have an opportunity afforded them to indulge in their passionate
fondness for display, and the latter were gratified to set their eyes
upon the representatives of the new Italian kingdom. I joined the latter
in order to be present at the reception. In the early morning of a
sultry day in June we rode out of the town, a distance of about two
hours, to meet them, and when we came up to them they were just changing
their dresses. They wished to appear before the Persians in full parade,
and it took considerable time for twenty-five Europeans, diplomatists,
military men, merchants, and men of science, to accomplish the task of
donning their best attire. It was not far from noon, the heat being
intolerable, when these gentlemen entered the gates of the town, in
their highly ornamental uniforms and costumes, their breasts resplendent
with the insignia of the various orders, in plumed helmets and
magnificent swords. Of course the sight was to us Europeans a very
attractive one, but wishing to hear the opinion of the natives, I left
my company and mixed with the crowd. During the whole procession I heard
nothing but ironical remarks, the Persians looking upon things
considered by us splendid, as ridiculous. According to their notions,
our short coats, fitting the body, are the most indecorous things,
without any taste, and everything plain, tightfitting, and unassuming in
dress looks to them mean and insignificant. Their idea of the beautiful
in dress consists in what is ample, flowing in rich folds and showy.
Their prudery and mock modesty make them regard as indecent any mode of
dressing which sharply defines the limbs and outlines of the human body,
whilst Europeans affect that style, and thereby rouse the displeasure of
the Asiatics. They also criticise the stiff carriage of the Europeans on
horseback, and in this they are not far from wrong, for the European
with his protruding chest looks like a caricature besides one who sits
with easy grace, yet proudly, on his steed.

The Embassy, on the day of their arrival, were worked very hard indeed.
For two hours they were dragged through the town, in every possible
direction, in order to gratify the curiosity of the populace. When they
got at last to the place assigned to them for their residence, they were
far from being allowed to rest. For three whole days they were besieged
by a host of polite visitors, each of them attended by a troop of
servants who were to bring back to their master's house, in return, the
ampler and more valuable presents which they expected to receive from
the Embassy.

The roads leading from Tebriz into the interior of Persia were fairly
swarming with caravans and troops of travellers. I, therefore, deemed
the roads sufficiently safe, and resolved to continue alone my journey
to the capital of the country, accompanied only by a _tcharvador_, a man
who lets horses and animals of burden for hire. I hired from him a
rather sorry-looking nag, corresponding to the modest sum I paid for its
use, placed my scanty baggage on it, and said good-bye to Tebriz.



VIII.

IN ZENDJAN.


Two days after leaving Tebriz, I arrived at a village called
_Turkmantchay_, and passed the night there. This village is celebrated
for being the place where the Treaty of Peace, which put an end to the
Perso-Russian war of 1826-28, was concluded. Nothing particular happened
on my way from here to _Miane_, except a slight intermezzo, occurring
during my noon's rest at a solitary caravansary. I had been asked before
by Shi-ites, here and there, in my capacity of a Sunnite, to give them
some kind of _nuskha_ (talisman). A Shi-ite Seid came to me there on the
same errand, and I readily granted his request by writing one or two
passages of the Koran on a slip of paper. He was not satisfied with
this, but begged of me, in addition, tobacco for his pipe, some of the
strong kind my friends in Tebriz had presented me with. "Seid," I said,
"I give it to thee willingly, but thou art used to the mild tobacco of
Kurdistan, and I am afraid this will make thee sick." As he kept on
insisting, I was obliged to let him have some. He filled his pipe
lighted it, but hardly had he taken a few puffs at it when he was,
seized by a violent attack of dizziness, became dreadfully pale and had
a fit of vomiting. The Seid rushed, screaming, into the yard and
shouted: "Help, help, Shi-ites; the Sunnite has poisoned me." I ran
after him as fast as I could, and when I overtook him I found him lying
on his back surrounded by a small group of Persians. If my eloquence had
not been equal to the task of persuading the bystanders of my innocence,
I should have fared badly.

While yet at a distance of several hours from _Zendjan_ I was joined by
a Persian man, who, judging by his appearance, seemed to belong to the
learned class. He addressed me, to my surprise, at once as Effendi,
although I had never set my eyes on him before. He was very talkative,
like most Persians, and discoursed about a thousand things in the course
of half an hour. He introduced himself to me as a physician who was just
returning from his visits to his patients in the neighbourhood. Very
soon he was overtaken by his servant leading a mule so heavily laden
that it well-nigh sank beneath the weight of its load. The poor beast
was carrying the fees collected in kind by the physician, such as dried
fruit, corn and so forth. This loquacious disciple of Æsculap dwelt,
during the whole time, upon the miraculous cures he had accomplished,
and gave vent to his unbounded astonishment at the impudence of the
Frengis (Europeans) who dared to appear as physicians in the home of
_Ali Ben Sina_ (Avicenna). He unceasingly dilated upon the efficiency of
his amulets and talismans, and how he had driven devils out of his
patients, made the dumb speak, the blind see and the deaf hear. When we
reached the town my head fairly ached with the man's incessant flow of
speech.

Along the road leading to the caravansary I observed a great many black
flags hoisted upon tall poles. We were in the first ten days of the
month of Moharrem, during which period the Islamite world abstains from
every kind of merry-making. But the Shi-ites begin the doleful feast one
month sooner; everybody arrays himself in mourning, fasts, and employs
his time in the recital of elegies and in visiting the _Tazies_. The
black flags marked the places where the performances were to take place.
At that time, a celebrated singer was everywhere spoken of, who had won
great distinction in the part of _Ali Ekber_, and who was to perform on
that very day in the Tazie of the governor. I was burning with
impatience to witness a Tazie, and I had hardly arrived at the
caravansary when I determined to start at once. I joined the populace,
and was carried by the stream of people into the court of the governor.
There in the centre stood an elevated platform, a little above two yards
high, around which, upon poles of considerable height, were suspended
tiger and panther skins, black flags, shields of steel and skin, and
bare swords, interspersed with here and there a lamp, to light up the
evening performance. This was the stage. The women were seated on the
right side of the court, and the men were gathering on the opposite
side. The governor himself (who had the Tazie performed) and his family,
surrounded by the prominent men of the town, looked at the spectacle
from the second story. Everything was wrapped in deep mourning, every
face wore an expression of indescribable sadness and dejection.

The Tazie represents the tragic history of Hussein, of which a short
outline will be here in place. After the death of Mohammed, he having
designated no one as his successor, the faithful divided into two camps.
The larger portion thought Abubekr, the oldest companion and follower
of the Prophet, most worthy of the succession, whilst the minority
endeavoured to place Ali upon the throne, guided by the strength of
those words uttered by Mohammed: "Even as I am lord, so is Ali lord,
too." But Ali's party was vanquished. After Abubekr came Osman, and the
latter was succeeded by Omar. Ali's partisans, however, did not despair
of their cause; they made several attempts to seat him on the throne,
and after the death of Omar, Ali actually became Caliph. His reign was
of short duration; his enemies, at whose head the Prophet's widow
herself stood, had him assassinated. His sad vicissitudes, cruel
sufferings and tragic end only increased the number of his followers; he
was mourned as a martyr and almost deified. He had nine wives, but of
these mention is made only of Fatima, the Prophet's most beloved
daughter, who bore Ali two sons, Hassan and Hussein. The right of
succession was claimed by Hussein. The latter, upon one occasion, was
going from Mecca to the town of Kuffa, at the invitation of its
inhabitants, who were his partisans. He was accompanied by those of his
followers who expatriated themselves from Mecca. On the banks of the
Tigris, in the middle of the desert, they were suddenly attacked by
hostile bands, sent against them by Yezid, and every one of them cruelly
massacred. This catastrophe is commemorated, in Persia, by numberless
mournful and plaintive songs and theatrical exhibitions, called
_Tazies_.

Just before the Tazie commenced, a ragged and, from excessive indulgence
in opium, rather rickety-looking dervish stepped upon the platform,
crying: "Ya Muminin!" (Oh! you true believers), and in an instant the
utmost stillness prevailed. He now engaged in a long prayer, lauding the
perfections and brave deeds of the Shi-ite great, and then enumerating
in exaggerated language the sins and wickedness of the Sunnites, and in
mentioning the names of some distinguished Sunnite men, he exclaimed,
with a fury bordering on madness: "Brethren, ought we not to curse them,
ought we not to call down damnation upon their heads? I tell you, a
curse upon the three dogs, the three usurpers, Abubekr, Omar and Osman!"
There he paused, waiting for the effect of his words on the assembled
multitude. The whole multitude expressed their approval of his curses
and anathemas by loud cries of "Bishbad, bishbad!" (More even than that,
more even than that!) The dervish went on cursing Ayesha, the Prophet's
wife, Moavie, Yezid and all the distinguished foes to Shi-itism, pausing
at the name of each, and the audience roared out every time "Bishbad!" A
speech by the same person, glorifying the Shah, the present Ulemas of
Persia and the Governor, followed the cursing, at the end of which he
descended from the platform and hurried amongst the audience to gather
in a substantial reward for the zeal he had shown. This was the
prologue. Shortly afterwards several persons clad in ample flowing robes
made their appearance on the stage, singing elegies now in solos, now in
chorus, in order to move the hearts of the hearers and prepare their
minds for the coming play. Imam Hussein comes now upon the stage; he is
on his way to Kuffa, in the very heart of the desert, and accompanied by
his family and a small band of faithful followers. They are all horribly
suffering from want of water, and Hussein is endeavouring to assuage the
woes of his family, caused by their tantalizing thirst, by words of
comfort and encouragement. Meanwhile a throne is rising in the
background, the throne of Yezid, Hussein's enemy, seated upon which is
Yezid herself, in all the pride of pomp, distributing orders of the most
cruel nature against Hussein and his friends amongst her mailed and
warlike followers. Ali Ekber, the youngest child of Hussein, is so moved
at the sight of the sad plight in which his parents and sisters and
brothers are, that he determines to fetch them water from the Tigris,
although he well knows that the enemy is lurking everywhere. His parents
and their friends dissuade him from this enterprise, in the tenderest
language, their voices attuned to the emotions of love and anxiety for
his safety. There was something really affecting in the beseeching tones
of the weeping mother and in the prayers of the father, and the sobs of
Hussein and his little band could hardly be heard on account of the
sympathizing howling round about. The women, in particular, wept so
bitterly that I could catch, at rare intervals, only here and there a
word of the beautiful and deeply affecting dialogue.

But Ali Ekber remains firm in his resolve; his mother swoons away but
soon recovers; she wishes to see her son become a hero and utters
prayers for his safety. His own father girds on his sword, and he mounts
his steed on the spot, and rides around the stage a couple of times. He
is immediately pursued by one of Yezid's band, a powerful warrior, who,
in pursuit, is not sparing of the most violent outbreaks against the
persecuted youth. The struggle grows heated, the scene interesting, and
the interest more and more intense. The brave youth is at last
overtaken, blow falls after blow, and Ali Ekber's blood is flowing from
numerous wounds. Groans and shrieks of despair from Ali Ekber's family
and followers, who, watching the event of the fight with bated breath,
perceive the awful finale. He sinks to the ground and is carried, half
dead, to the front of the stage. At this moment, when father, mother,
sisters and brothers with loud wailings precipitate themselves upon the
yawning wounds of the unhappy youth, shedding into them their tears
instead of balm, the moaning, groaning and shrieks of spectators rise to
the highest pitch. Women beat their breasts, and everybody, as a mark of
sorrow, strews dust and chopped straw, instead of ashes, upon his head.
The spectators are indeed so carried away with the play, that I doubt if
there be anywhere in Europe a tragedian capable of producing a similar
effect upon his audience. At the sight of his dying son, Hussein's wrath
knows no bounds, and vowing vengeance, he, too, vaults into the saddle,
but is hotly pressed by Shamr, one of Yezid's knights, and killed. His
dead body is brought forward, and at the sight of it the multitude break
out afresh into never-ending lamentations and weeping. They place him
beside his son, and they are covered with black mourning shawls. At last
a general massacre ensues, and every member of Hussein's family is
killed. There they all lie stark dead, stretched out on the floor, and
the pious spectators are so filled with holy horror that they dare not
lift their eyes to look at the appalling spectacle on the stage--the
performers leave the stage, and there is an end to the tragedy.

The other piece which followed represented a biblical scene--Abraham
being about to sacrifice his son Isaac. This, too, was acted with
considerable fidelity. After the old patriarch has patiently listened to
God's command to the end, he seizes his child, kisses him, hugs him to
his breast and finally ties him and lays him upon the altar. He then
draws his sword, places the edge of his sword upon the child's bare
throat, and just as he is about to cut the boy's throat, an angel of the
Lord appears with two lambs. Isaac starts up from the altar and Abraham
kills, in his place, the two lambs, which afford afterwards a succulent
supper to the comedians. I was particularly struck with the grave
demeanour and cleverness of the child-performers. There were some
amongst them not above six years old, who knew their parts, amounting to
a couple of hundred lines, perfectly well by heart. Their mimic acting
and gestures were quite unexceptionable, too. The parts are always sung
by the performers, and there were some actors who sang, especially the
mournful parts, with such true expression and skill that the most
delicate ear and the severest artistic sensibility would be gratified in
hearing them.

Such and similar are the subjects of the Tazie. The performance and its
getting up, of course, vary very much, according to the person at whose
expense it takes place. The finest Tazies I saw were those performed at
the court of Teheran, to which, however, usually, no strangers, except
the members of the Turkish Embassy, are invited. As their guest I had an
opportunity to go and see it with them, and the splendour displayed
there is something not easily to be forgotten. All the actors were
wrapped in shawls of the most costly quality; their arms were studded
with genuine diamonds and precious stones, and the handles of their
swords were either gilded or made of solid silver. The acting and the
scenery were perfect; one could almost imagine Yezid, in person, to be
before one's eyes. There is one thing, however, which detracts a great
deal from the illusion of the representation; the female parts must be
assumed by men, as the law of Islam rigidly forbids women to appear in
public places.



IX.

FROM KAZVIN TO TEHERAN.


My next place of destination was _Kazvin_, once the capital of Iran.
There is not at present, however, a trace left of its ancient grandeur.
The finely cultivated and luxuriant gardens in the suburbs were objects
of great interest to me, and I lost so much time in their observation
that it was already late at night when I entered the caravansary. I set
down my luggage and immediately went off to purchase the necessary
articles of food, but found, to my great surprise, all the shops closed.
After half an hour's fruitless search I was compelled to retire to my
cell hungry and worn-out with the fatigues of a whole day's travelling.
In my vain attempts to procure some food I invariably received the same
answer: "To-morrow will be the anniversary day of Hussein's death; the
Shi-ites are good Mussulmans, and much too devout to carry on their
business on the day on which Hussein and the other saints suffered so
much." There was nothing left to me but to have recourse to begging;
but the scanty alms one can obtain from the close-fisted Persian are by
no means sufficient to satisfy the tremendous appetite of a traveller.
On the following morning I succeeded in buying, under the seal of the
profoundest secrecy, of a man who was not a shopkeeper, some bread and
boiled rice. I hastened back to the caravansary and persuaded my
travelling companion to leave at once. As we were advancing through the
bazaar, towards the gate of the town, we were met by a funeral and
atoning procession--such as on this day may be seen everywhere in
Persia, in pursuance of an ancient custom,--trying to excite the
devotion of Believers by their frightful yelling and barbarous
fanaticism. No imagination is equal to the task of picturing the wild
antics in which those who participate in these processions indulge. One
is taking a mad leap, another is striking his chest until blood issues
from his mouth, a third is cutting up his body with a sharp knife, in
order to make an impression upon the crowd by his flowing blood. I
withdrew into a corner of the bazaar, waiting until the maddened crowd,
with whose yells the whole neighbourhood resounded, had passed. My
companion informed me that Kazvin--devout Kazvin, as he called
it--distinguished itself on this day amongst all other towns in Persia
by the death of at least two persons, out of devotion for Hussein. I
readily believed him, for the scenes which transpire here on the tenth
day of Moharrem vividly recall the self-mutilations of the Indians,
inspired by religious fanaticism, or that scene in Egypt when on the day
of Bairam men lie down upon the ground, in front of the mosque, to be
trampled upon by the hoofs of the chief priest's well-fed horse.

The heat of the day compelled us to travel by night, and we were
favoured in having just then full moon. The only objection I had was
the extreme stillness of the night; I found it unsociable; for although
we met now and then with solitary travellers and smaller caravans,
returning from Teheran, yet we never had any one to join us, and were
obliged to jog on by ourselves. On the third night after our departure
from Kazvin, as we were riding in a flat country, I heard, about night,
voices in the distance, and soon after the steadily approaching clatter
of horses' hoofs. Placing my firearms before me on the saddle head, I
bent forward in order to be able to see and observe better. Three
horsemen brandishing aloft their arms came swooping down upon us.
Holding my pistols ready for firing, I called out to them: "Get out of
the way, or I will shoot you down." Either the strange sound of the
foreign dialect, or our costume, so unlike that of the Persians,
frightened them away and they took to their heels; but although my
companion looked upon the occurrence as a joke, I could not help feeling
uneasy, and had some comfort, on the evening of the following day, in
the certainty that Teheran would be our next station.

I had brought with me several letters of recommendation from prominent
Effendis and Pashas in Constantinople, introducing me to Haider Effendi,
the then Turkish Ambassador in Persia. I was spoken of in these, for the
most part, as an eccentric person who, tired of the idyllic repose of a
quiet life in Constantinople, had set out to look for distraction in the
wilds of Persia. Some laid special stress upon my being led to the East
by the queer idea of studying the Eastern Turkish language; in one word,
they did everything to satisfy Haider Effendi that I was in no way
connected with politics, but a mere dreamer, worthy of his patronage.
Haider Effendi had, besides, the reputation of being an affable, kind
and straightforward man, and I felt convinced of a friendly reception
at the Turkish Embassy, where I intended putting up.

I was thinking of this as I came up to the banks of a small brook called
_Keretch_. I found there a large crowd of travellers, some preparing for
their ablutions, others engaged in prayer on the banks. It was a cool
summer's morning, a sure indication of excessive heat during the day. My
curiosity to see the capital of Iran gave me no rest. I quickly washed
myself in the clear water of the brook, and, greatly to the disgust of
my companion, who wished to rest here for another half-hour, immediately
mounted my horse, and started in the direction of the capital. I
repeatedly asked, "Where is Teheran?" for I saw no indication of it. My
companion's stolid answer always remained the same: "There," he said,
pointing with his finger onward. In vain I exerted my sight, I could not
discover the city. At last the gray mass of fog which hovered over it
caught my eyes, and there was Teheran spread along the sloping base of a
mountain. We were but half an hour's distance from it. The fog soon gave
way to the rising sun. I got a glimpse first of roofs covered with green
glazed tiles, then of gilded cupolas, and at last the panorama of the
whole town unrolled before my eyes--I was at the gate of the seat of
government of the "King of Kings," as the Shah calls himself.

I had now been serving an apprenticeship of two months to the art of
travelling, and but for having got thinner, darker and considerably
speckled in the face, I had every reason to be satisfied with the state
of my health, which had successfully resisted so far the by no means
slight fatigues of Asiatic caravan travelling on miserable nags.



X.

IN TEHERAN.


The wall upon which Teheran and its inhabitants rely for their
protection is built of mud, but it is nevertheless talked about by the
Persians, with their usual exaggeration, as an impregnable wall of solid
rock. I rode into the capital of Iran through a narrow gate in this
wall, and had to push my way through the throng of pedestrians, horsemen
and laden mules that were crossing the narrow, irregular and crooked
streets. After protracted inquiry I succeeded in finding the palace of
the Turkish Embassy, but it was empty; its occupants were gone. The
soldiers mounting guard informed me that the entire _personnel_ of the
Embassy, following the fashion of the upper classes here, were living in
the country, in a village called _Djizer_, at the foot of the
neighbouring mountains, where the air was cooler and more bearable than
that of the capital.

I was rather pleased with this news, for one day's experience was
sufficient to convince me that Teheran was almost uninhabitable during
the summer months, owing to the intolerable heat and a stifled
atmosphere choked with noxious miasmas. The new-comer feels immediately
the effects of these miasmas for I could hardly eat anything on the day
of my arrival. Towards evening the air became somewhat cooler, and as I
had parted with my fellow-traveller from Tebriz, and consequently with
my nag, too, I was obliged to hire an ass, in order to accomplish my
trip to _Djizer_, which was about two hours' distance off. It was late
in the evening when I arrived. The members of the Embassy were just then
taking their supper beneath a tent of silk, in the garden. I was
received by them with a cordiality exceeding my most sanguine
expectations, and immediately invited to join them at their meal. Haider
Effendi and his secretaries, the latter of whom had known me slightly in
Constantinople, looked at me as if I had dropped from the sky; and if
everybody in Persia, even the Persians themselves, are pleased to listen
to accounts about Constantinople, one can easily imagine with what
eagerness I was listened to by Turks, and especially by people from
Constantinople. There was no end to all sorts of questions and
inquiries. I had to tell them about the government of the new Sultan,
and a thousand other things, and spoke, of course, as in duty bound, of
the heavenly beauties of the Bosphorus, until it was midnight. When I
told them of the journey I contemplated, the kind-hearted Osmanlis only
stared at me. They could not conceive how a sensible man should wish to
go to Central Asia, a region spoken of, even in Persia, as the dreadful
desert and the dwelling-place of all that is most savage and barbarous.
The ambassador in chief was foremost in condemning my plan as eccentric.
"First of all," he said, "stay with us for a couple of months, and then
we will talk about your travels in Central Asia. Take first a good look
at Persia, and it will be time enough afterwards to proceed on your
journey." He evidently thought that I should gladly renounce, in the
meantime, my adventurous schemes.

In order that I might fully recover from the fatigues of the journey,
the good Osmanlis surrounded me with every imaginable comfort. I was put
into a tent by myself and provided with a horse and a servant; in short,
I was transferred from a poor traveller into a great lord. I was thus
placed in a position to study at my leisure Teheran, the capital of
Iran.

The first thing the stranger is struck with is the utter want of
cleanliness in the streets, as well as in the interior of the houses.
The Persian covers the large unfurnished halls--what we should term
drawing-rooms--of his house with costly carpets, and decorates its walls
with rich ornaments, but the kitchen, the room he lives in, and the
pantry are most shamefully neglected by him. It is the same with his
dress. A person who will spend from fifty to a hundred gold pieces for
his outer garments is rarely the owner of more than two or three shirts.
Soap is looked upon as an article of luxury, being hardly ever used, and
I have met with Khans of high social standing and refinement who made
use of their servants' pocket-handkerchiefs. The henna-painting,
however, is that which renders every Persian grandee particularly
loathsome, in spite of his outward splendour and rich dress. Henna is a
yellow powder obtained from a plant called _Lawsonia inermis_, which, by
being dissolved in water, furnishes a red dye of brick-colour. With this
henna they dye their fine black beards and their very eyes red, the
colour of bricks. Persons of standing also dye with henna their
finger-nails and hands. The coat of paint hides the dirt; and a
gentleman or lady, having made use of it, can afford to do without
washing for several days.

Knives, forks and spoons are things unknown in Persia. It is utterly
repulsive to the European to see the master of the house pulling to
pieces, with his fingers, a boiled chicken, and giving each guest a
piece of it, or having a cup of sherbet passed round, in which a dozen
men have already steeped their henna-dyed moustaches.

Persian refinement is confined only to gestures, speech and
conversational manner. But in these they excel all the Eastern
nations--perhaps the nations of the West, too--and these elegant manners
are, of course, to be found in their highest perfection at the capital.
Volumes could be filled with the strict laws laid down for visits and
return visits, and the proprieties of correspondence and conversation.
Each Persian wishes to surpass the other in expressions of politeness
and delicacy, which seem the more absurd the more we happen to know of
the private lives of the Persians.

At every turn in the street the eye meets shocking contrasts of
splendour and misery. At one end of the street may be seen a swarm of
half-naked dervishes and beggars loitering about, whilst a Khan on
horseback, followed by a numerous retinue, appears at the other end.
Forty to sixty servants, armed with long staves, are ranged on each side
of the Khan, who, on his richly caparisoned horse, looks very pompous
indeed, and keeps his head continually wagging with an air of great
importance. You might suppose their lord to be at least a high officer
of state, judging by the noisy conduct and impudent behaviour of his
followers towards every one they met. Far from it! Often he is but a
poor Khan, weighted down with debts, who has been in the capital
ante-chambering and begging for some office for months past. His very
men are not paid by him; they are a set of starvelings who follow him
in the hope of his obtaining some office, and meanwhile try to add to
the splendour of his appearance in public. Nothing but deception and
delusion!

The Persians exhibit in the presence of their sovereign the most abject
humility; but I have often heard expressions, and witnessed acts of
disrespect towards him as soon as they were out of his sight. As an
instance of their cringing manner may be cited the reply given by a
courtier who was asked by the Shah to draw nearer to him. "Sire," he
answered, covering up his eyes with his hand, "spare me, I dare not
approach nearer to thy person; the glory of thy magnificent splendour
dazzles my eyes." They do not, on the other hand, pay the slightest
attention to their sovereign's commands, requests or threats, and the
more distant the place or province is from the capital the more surely
are commands and threats ignored. The courtiers highest in his
confidence, the servants and officers standing nearest to his person,
those whom his generosity has enriched, are the very men to spread the
vilest rumours about him. These slanders find their way amongst the
people; poets compose lampoons about them, and these are declaimed in
all the alleys and byways of the kingdom. For a week or two life at the
Embassy was pleasant, but soon "Up to Shiraz" was my only thought, and
in a few days I joined a caravan to start for that city.



XI.

THE SALT DESERT OF DESHTI-KUVIR.


I left Teheran on the 2nd of September, 1862, by the gate of _Shah
Abdul-Azim_, dressed in the costume of a Sunnite dervish from Bagdad, my
_entari_ (nether garment), reaching down to my heels, a red girdle round
my waist, a striped black _mashlak_ (a waterproof coat) on my back, and
on my head a neat _keffie_,[2] both useful and ornamental. As it was
usual to close the gates of Teheran after sunset, our little caravan had
fixed upon a caravansary outside the town for our place of meeting. The
travellers composing the caravan, became, for the most part, first
acquainted with each other there. The caravan consisted of about thirty
laden mules, a couple of horsemen, mollahs, pilgrims returning from
Meshed, merchants, mechanics and my insignificant self. It was two hours
after midnight when we started, and proceeded along the wide path
leading to Shah Abdul-Azim, a place which is held in high esteem by the
Teheran people as a resort for pilgrims. I walked there frequently
during my stay in Teheran. The place is full of life and noise during
the day, especially in the afternoon hours. There can be seen at all
times a troop of gaudily dressed women of the better classes, sitting on
horseback man fashion, prominent mirzahs and khans with numerous
followers, and now and then a European coach, used generally by the
court only. Of course at the time of night that we passed through it a
dead silence was brooding over it. The moon shed an almost day-like
light upon the mountain range stretching to the left and upon the gilded
cupola beneath which the earthly remains of Shah Abdul-Azim reposed.
After we had been riding in silence for two hours, some of the members
of our caravan began to thaw into a social mood, and interrupted the
monotony of our march by conversation and lively sallies.

     [Footnote 2: An Arab headgear, consisting of a large
     handkerchief of silk with yellow stripes.]

I selected for my companion a young Seid from Bagdad, who was about to
make a starring tour, as a _rawzekhan_ (singer of sacred songs), through
Southern Persia. Properly speaking only such persons are called
rawzekhans who sing Tazies, _i.e._, elegies in honour of Hussein, of
great renown in Persia. These men are the most fanatic Shi-ites, and it
may cause some surprise that we became more intimately acquainted. But
the Seid, as an inhabitant of Bagdad, and a subject of the Sublime
Porte, was willing enough to cultivate the acquaintance of an Effendi.
He introduced me to the other members of the caravan, and being a jovial
fellow, who would easily pass from his funeral songs to a livelier and
more worldly tune, he very soon became a favourite with the whole
company, and I, too, indirectly, profited by his popularity.

I at first scrupulously avoided all religious discussions, as I wished
to ingratiate myself with my fellow-travellers, although it was by no
means easy to do so; the Persians being very fond of arguing, and
willingly entering into a discussion with Christians, Ghebers, and
especially with Sunnites. The night was a magnificent one, and in Persia
these moonlit nights are simply entrancing. The clear, transparent air,
the graceful outline of the mountains, the darkling ruins, the
spectre-like shadows of the advancing caravan, and, above all, the
wonders of the starry vault above us, do not fail to produce an
unutterable impression upon the imagination of a traveller coming from
the far West to the East. Our road, however, was the worst imaginable;
we had to make our way over fragments and boulders of rock, and cross
ditches, ravines and the beds of rivers run dry. The difficulties of the
road affected me but little; I abandoned myself entirely to the safe
gait of my trusty asinine quadruped, and watched with intense interest
every movement of the Seid, who contemplated the star-covered sky, and
had some story to tell about each star. Every star had a legend of its
own, an influence good or baneful, and I listened to his wonderful
accounts with a soul full of faith. The constellation of the Great Bear
was already inclining towards the margin of the western sky when we
reached the height of _Karizek_, upon whose downward slopes
_Kenaregird_, the village which was to be our first station, was lying.
I cast one more glance at the beautiful moonlit landscape before
descending, and as we went down on the other side of the mountain, the
soft light of the moon slowly paled at the approach of the dawning day.

As soon as the morning star appears to the eye it is the custom, for the
whole caravan, to hail the coming day. The most zealous person in the
company engages in the recital of the Ezan, a task which quite naturally
fell this time to the lot of our Seid. The ablutions are performed in
the twilight of the dawn of morning, and before the first rays of the
sun touch the crest of the mountains, the caravan stops and morning
prayers are engaged in.

[Illustration: TRAVELLING IN PERSIA.]

The animals stand quietly with their heads bent low, whilst the men,
with their faces turned towards the East, are kneeling, in a line, side
by side, with such a penitent and remorseful expression on their
countenances, as may be witnessed only with Mohammedans. When the rays
of the sun reach the devout faithful, they lift up their voices and
chant the melodious prayer beginning with the words Allah Ekber (_i.e._,
God is the greatest).

After sunrise it is customary for the caravan to march on for a longer
or shorter space of time, according as it happens to start earlier or
later the night before, or as the next station is nearer or farther off.
When we turned into our station the rays of the sun shot down
mercilessly on our heads. We put up at the spacious caravansary, near
the village of Kenaregird. The meaning of its name is, "Border of Sand,"
for to the east of it extends the salt desert of _Deshti-Kuvir_. This
desert must be an awful place, for during all my wanderings through
Persia I never met with a native who had travelled over that portion of
it lying between Kenaregird and _Tebbes_. A Persian talking about the
desert of Deshti-Kuvir is always ready to frighten his listeners with a
batch of tales of horror, in each of which devils and evil spirits
conspicuously figure. The favourite legend which is most often repeated
is the story of _Shamr_, Hussein's murderer and the mortal enemy of
every Shi-ite Persian, to whom the desolation of this region is
attributed. Flying from his own remorse, he took refuge here, and the
once flourishing country suddenly became a sterile desert. The salt
lakes and the bottomless morasses are caused by the drops of sweat
rolling down his body in the agony of his sufferings. The most dreadful
place of all is _Kebir Kuh_, where Shamr is dwelling to this day. Woe to
the poor traveller who allows himself to be lured to this region by the
deceptive light of the ignis fatuus! Such and similar stories I was
regaled with by my fellow-travellers in connection with the salt desert
of Persia. As soon as we arrived at the caravansary every one of us
hastened to seek a shelter in the shade, and we were all of us soon
comfortably settled. In a few instants the city of travellers presented
the appearance of a lively and stirring settlement. Whilst the animals
were crunching their dry barley straw, the Persians looked to the
preparation of their meals. Those who were better off got their servants
to rub their backs and shoulders and to pull their limbs until they
cracked, this somewhat singular pastime being evidently intended to
restore elasticity to the body. After a short rest we breakfasted, and
then immediately retired to rest again. The caravan recuperates from the
fatigues of the journey during the heat of the day, and continues its
way at the dusk of evening. The animals follow the example of their
masters. Towards evening men and cattle are on their feet again, and
whilst the animals are being scrubbed and attended to, the men prepare
their _pilar_ (a dish composed of meat and rice). The supper is eaten
about an hour before starting. The dervish fares better than any one
else, for no sooner does the caravan arrive than he, without a care,
seeks his rest, and when the savoury steam of the kettle announces the
approach of the evening meal, he seizes his _keshkul_ (a vessel made of
the shell of the cocoa-nut), and goes the rounds of the various groups,
shouting out sultily, "Ya hu, Ya hakk!" He gets a few slices from every
one, mixes the heterogeneous contributions, and swallows it all with a
good appetite. "He carries with him nothing," say the people of the
East; "he does not cook, yet he eats; his kitchen is provided by God."

We had to cross the desert in its entire length to get to our next
station. The silence of the night becomes, in this wilderness, doubly
oppressive, and as far as the eye of the traveller can reach he will
find no spot to repose it upon. Only here and there may be seen piled up
columns of sand, driven about by the wind, and gliding from place to
place like so many dark spectres. I did not wonder that these shifting
shadows were taken by timid and credulous souls for evil spirits pursued
by furies. My companion seemed to belong to the superstitious class, for
wrapping his cloak tightly round him, he kept close to the densest part
of the caravan, and would not, for the world, so much as glance at the
wilderness stretching to the east.

It was about midnight when we heard the sound of bells, and upon my
inquiry as to the meaning of this, I was told that a larger caravan,
which had left an hour earlier than we did, was in front of us. We
accelerated our march in order to overtake it, but had hardly come
within a hundred paces from it when an intolerable stench, as if of dead
bodies, filled the air. The Persians were aware of the cause of this
poisonous stench and hurried silently on; but it went on increasing the
further we advanced. I could not restrain my curiosity any longer, but
turning to my nearest neighbour, I asked again what this meant, but he
curtly replied, betraying, however, great anxiety: "Hurry up, hurry up!
this is the caravan of the dead." This information was sufficient to
make me urge my wearied beast forward to greater speed, and after a
while I reached, together with my companions, the caravan. It consisted
of about forty animals, horses and mules, under the leadership of three
Arabs. The backs of the animals were laden with coffins, and we made
every effort to avoid the dread procession. In passing near one of the
horsemen who had charge of the caravan I caught sight of a face, which
was frightful to look at; the eyes and nose were concealed by some
wraps, and the rest of his lividly pale face looked ghastly by the light
of the moon. Undaunted by the sickening atmosphere, I rode up to his
side and inquired about the particulars of his errand. The Arab informed
me that he had been now ten days on the way, and that twenty more would
pass in taking the dead bodies to Kerbela, the place where, out of
devotion for Hussein, the pious wish to sleep their eternal sleep. This
custom prevails all over Persia; and every person who can afford it,
even if he live in distant Khorassan, makes arrangements to have his
remains carried to Kerbela, in order that they may be interred in the
soil wherein the beloved Imam Hussein is reposing. It takes sometimes
two months before the dead body can reach its place of destination. One
mule is frequently laden with four coffins, and whilst their conveyance
during the winter is comparatively harmless, it is of deadly effect, to
beast and man alike, in the heat of July in Persia.

At some distance from the caravan of the dead, I glanced back at the
strange funeral procession. The animals with their sad burden of coffins
hung their heads, seemingly trying to bury their nostrils in their
breasts, whilst the horsemen keeping at a good distance from them, were
urging them on with loud cries to greater speed. It was a spectacle
which seen anywhere could not fail to produce a profound impression of
terror, but seen in the very centre of the desert, at the dead hour of
the night, in the ghastly illumination of the moon, it could not fail to
strike the most intrepid soul with awe and terror.



XII.

KUM AND KASHAN.


The members of the little caravan had now been travelling together for
three days, and this short time was amply sufficient to establish the
friendliest feelings of good fellowship amongst them. Of course, no one
entertained the faintest suspicion of my being one of those Europeans,
the barest touch of whom renders a Shi-ite unclean, and with whom to eat
out of the same plate is a capital sin. In their eyes I was the Effendi
from Constantinople, the guest of the Turkish Embassy, who instigated by
a desire to travel was about to visit imperial Isfahan and Shiraz, the
paradise-like. I rapidly made friends with most of the company, although
some of the most obdurate Shi-ites could not refrain, at times, from
casting in my teeth the manifold wrong-doings of the Sunnites. One man
in particular, a shoemaker, whose tall green turban denoted his descent
from Ali, annoyed me with his everlasting reiterations of the sinful
usurpations of the three Caliphs. The quieter members of the company
would try to soothe his ruffled spirits on such occasions, and turn the
conversation into calmer channels; but my man very soon came back to the
charge, and waxing warm with his favourite topic, he would take hold of
the horse's bridle and talk with as much animation about the case of
succession mooted a trifle of twelve hundred years ago, as though the
whole affair had happened but yesterday.

_Kum_, with its green cupolas, loomed up before our eyes on the fourth
day of our march. It is the sacred city of the Persian female world, for
here, in the company of 444 saints, repose in eternal sleep the remains
of Fatima, a sister to Imam (Saint) Riza, who, longing to see her
brother, undertook for that purpose a journey from Bagdad to Meshed,
but, on her way, was attacked by sickness in Kum, and died there. Kum,
like Kerbela, is a favourite place of burial for Persian women, who
cause their remains to be brought to this place from all parts of the
country. But the town of Kum enjoys the less enviable distinction of
being known as the abode of numerous evil-doers, owing to its having the
privilege of sanctuary; and he who is lucky enough to escape the hands
of the executioner, and to find a refuge within its sacred walls, is
safe from all molestation.

Every member of our caravan was eager to visit Kum, some wanting to take
part in the penitential processions as pilgrims, others to make
purchases and to attend to their affairs. At a considerable distance
from Kum, the environs, like those of all places of resort for pilgrims,
are dotted by small heaps of stones, which are raised by the hands of
pious pilgrims, amidst the chanting of sacred psalms. Here and there a
bush can be seen, too, decorated with the gaudiest kind of rags which
are hanging on it. Every one is anxious to leave some mark of his
devotion in the neighbourhood; according to their inclinations, some
resort to stones, others to rags in the accomplishment of their
devotional duties. It is said that in former times another custom
prevailed by which travellers might pay their tribute of respect--every
passer-by would drive a nail into some tree on the road. I, too,
dismounted and hung upon a bush a red silk tassel from my keffie. What a
wonderful collection of fabrics from all parts of the world! On these
bushes are represented the costly handiwork of India and Cashmere, the
manufactures of England and America, and the humble frieze and coarse
linen of the nomadic Turkoman, Arab and Kurdistan tribes. Now and then
the eye is caught by a magnificent shawl suspended on the branches of a
bush, exciting no doubt the cupidity of more than one pious pilgrim
passing by; but it is perfectly safe, as no one would dare to touch it,
it being considered the blackest act of sacrilege to remove any of these
tokens of piety.

Before reaching the town we had to pass a cemetery of extraordinary
dimensions, almost two English miles in length. My fellow-travellers,
however, perceiving my astonishment at the extent of the burial ground,
assured me that in point of size it could not be compared to that of
Kerbek. We were in Kum at last; our caravan put up at the caravansary in
the centre of the bazaar, and I learned with pleasure that we were to
take a two days' rest here.

As pious pilgrims we allowed ourselves but little time for rest, and
shortly after our arrival, having washed and brushed our clothes, we
repaired to the holy tomb. No European before me ever saw the interior
of this sanctuary, for there is no power on earth to procure admission
to it for a Frengi.

Innumerable Seids, entrusted with the custody of the tomb of their
"first ancestress," are camping in the outer courtyard, planted with
trees. A chapel with a richly gilded cupola rises in the centre of the
inner court. Twelve marble steps lead up to the door. The pilgrims
remove their shoes at the first of these steps; their arms or sticks are
taken away from them, and not until they have kissed the marble
threshold are they permitted to enter. The beholder is struck with the
extraordinary splendour of the interior of the chapel. The coffin,
enclosed by a strong trellised bar of solid silver, remains always
covered with a costly carpet. From the enclosure are suspended tablets
containing prayers, which the faithful either read themselves, or have
read to them by one of the numerous Seids who are loitering about. Any
amount of shouting, singing, weeping, and moaning, and vociferous
begging of the Seids is going on in the chapel; but this infernal din
does not interfere with the devotions of a great number of pious
pilgrims, who, leaning their foreheads against the cold bars of the
enclosure, gaze with fixed eyes upon the coffin, and mutter their silent
prayers. I particularly admired the many valuable and precious objects,
ornaments of pearls and diamonds, arms inlaid with gold, which were laid
down upon the tomb of St. Fatima as sacrificial gift-offerings. My
Bagdad costume offended the eye of many a person in the fanatic Shi-ite
crowd, but, thanks to the kindness of my fellow-travellers, I
experienced no annoyance whatever. From the tomb of Fatima the pilgrims
frequently go to the tombs of some of the great ones of the earth; and I
followed my companions to the tomb of Feth Ali Shah and his two sons,
who for some reason or other stood in particularly high favour with the
devout. The tomb was of the purest alabaster, and the portraits of the
departed ones were very cleverly carved into it on the outside. After
having thus accomplished our pious devotions, we felt at liberty to
wander back to the town and look at its remarkable sights.

Here, as elsewhere, the first thing to look at was the bazaar. We were
just then in the season of ripe fruit, and the whole bazaar was filled
with the water-melons, which are so celebrated throughout all Persia.
The water-melon is, during autumnal months, the almost exclusive food of
one portion of the people of Iran, and its juice is frequently used in
case of sickness for its medicinal properties. The Kum bazaar is
remarkable not only for the abundance and delicacy of its water-melons,
but also for its earthenware, one variety of which in particular, a
long-necked pitcher, manufactured from potter's clay taken from the soil
of the sacred city, is highly valued in trade. As I was making my rounds
in the bazaar, examining everything, I happened to stop before a muslin
dyer's shop. The Persian tradesman was industriously engaged in stamping
and printing the rude stuff spread out before him, by means of stencils,
which had been previously dipped in a blue dye, pressing them down with
all his strength; and as he observed me looking at his doings, he turned
upon me angrily, and evidently taking me for a Frengi, exclaimed: "We
shall get rid of your expensive cotton fabrics, and will by and by know
all your tricks of trade; and when the Persians will be able to do
without Frengistan manufacture, I know you will all come begging to us."

We left Kum on the third day after our arrival there, and passing
through several smaller places, where nothing worthy of note could be
seen, we came to _Kashan_, after a fatiguing march of two days. My
Persian fellow-travellers, long before we arrived in Kashan, were
praising up, in the most extravagant style, as usual, the beauty and
attractions of that town. For my part, the only thing of note I saw
there was the bazaar of the braziers, where the celebrated kettles of
Kashan are being manufactured. About eighty braziers' shops are standing
close to each other in a line, and in each of them muscular arms are
hammering away the whole blessed day. The brass wares manufactured here
are considered to be without rivals in point of solid workmanship and
elegance. Those highly polished bricks, which retain the brilliancy of
their shining colours for centuries, are said to have been invented in
this town. Formerly they were called bricks of Kashan, but now they are
known only by the name of Kashi, and serve as the chief ornaments in all
architectural monuments throughout Central Asia. The inhabitants had
also a great deal to tell about a dangerous species of scorpion, which
made Kashan their home, but from motives of hospitality never hurt a
stranger. I never came across any of these scorpions, but I had a great
deal to suffer from a no less annoying tribe of animals, the _lutis_
(strolling comedians), who attack every stranger coming to Kashan, and
from whose clutches nothing can save you except a ransom in the shape of
some gift. About ten of them stood there looking out for me as I was
entering the caravansary, and immediately made a rush upon me, some
producing hideous earsplitting music with their fifes, drums and
trumpets, others showing off a dancing bear; and one of them, seating
himself opposite to me, engaged in a declamation, at the top of his
voice, of a panegyrical poem, in my honour, in which, to my utter
astonishment, I heard my name mentioned. Of course, he had managed to
ferret out my name from my companions. I bore the infliction for a
little while patiently enough, listening to this charivari of sounds,
but finally retired. But it was not an easy thing, by any means, to
effect my retreat, for I was followed, on the spot, by one of the
artists, evidently the chief of the strolling company, insisting upon
some remuneration; and although I argued with him that I was but a
beggar myself, he would not listen to reason, but bravely stood his
place until I had given him something.

Leaving Kashan we had to proceed along a narrow mountain pass, flanked
by gigantic rocks and mountains of strange and fantastic shapes. The
moon shed a light almost as clear as that of the day, and the wonderful
tints in which the landscape before me was clothed seemed to vary and
change at every step we took. When we arrived beneath the great Bend, as
is called the large water-basin cut by Shah Abbas the Great into the
solid rock, in order to convey the waters produced by the snow melting
on the mountains to the sterile plain not far off, the scene before us
was startling in its rare and exceeding beauty. Although it was late in
autumn, the oval-shaped basin, formed by the enclosed valley, was
brimful of water, and the waterfall rushing down the rocky wall from a
height of fifty feet looked in the moonlit night, to borrow a Persian
phrase, like a river of diamonds. The deep roar of the waterfall is
heard far off in the stilly night, and the tired traveller coming from
the desert and quenching his thirst at the limpid waters of the basin,
would not exchange the refreshing and crystal-like fluid for all the
costly wines in the world.

The road from _Kuhrud_ goes uphill for a time, and then inclines with a
rather abrupt slope towards the plain lying on the other side of the
mountain, where our next station was to be. The mornings had grown
rather chilly and the travellers used to dismount on the way and pick up
stray sticks of _buta_, a species of gumwood growing in bushes, which
burns very well in its green state, but blazes with a loud crackling
sound when dry. It is usual to raise a large pile of these sticks and
then kindle it; the travellers range themselves round the blazing fire
and afterwards resume their journey. We were standing for the second
time, on the same morning, around this sort of fire when we were
suddenly startled by the sound of voices, in the rear, mingling with
savage exclamations, as if people were quarrelling, and upon listening
attentively we heard two reports from firearms, and the loud yelling of
some person badly hurt. The whole caravan was thoroughly alarmed, and,
running in the direction whence the report of the firearm had proceeded,
found there lying on the ground one of our companions, with a shattered
arm. The affray had happened in this way. Several horsemen who were
conveying the annual taxes from Shiraz to Teheran had come up with a
couple of Jewish shopkeepers, whom they first insulted, and afterwards,
passing from insult to injury, were about to lay violent hands upon. One
of our company, a Persian, happening to be present, had pity on the poor
Jews, stood up in their defence and took the impudent fellows from
Shiraz rather roughly to task for their unbecoming conduct. One of the
horsemen, a hotheaded young fellow, became so enraged at this
interference, that he lifted his rifle and shot at the Jews. He
afterwards pretended that the whole thing had been a joke, that he
intended only to frighten one of the Jews by sending a bullet through
his tall fur cap, but that unluckily he missed his aim and hit, instead,
the Persian's arm. The incident so exasperated the whole caravan that
our men at once started in pursuit of the culprit, who had meanwhile
turned his horse's head and galloped away for his life, at a break-neck
speed, but he was finally overtaken, dreadfully beaten, spit at amid
loud curses, securely tied and brought back to the caravansary. Both the
Shiraz man, who was bruised all over, and our wounded companion being
unable to proceed either on foot or on horseback, they were placed side
by side each in a basket, upon the back of a mule, and in the course of
half an hour they were chatting away in the friendliest manner. They
tied up each other's wounds, consoled one another, and went so far in
their newborn friendship as to kiss each other; for according to the
Eastern way of thinking neither of them was to be held responsible for
what had happened. Fate had willed it so, and in its decrees every one
must acquiesce.

In a village, called _Murtchekhar_, the judge of that place, evidently
desirous of currying favour with the governor of Shiraz, attempted to
liberate him, but the caravan stoutly refused to give him up, and only
delivered him over, later, into the hands of justice, at Isfahan.

On the 13th of September I saw Isfahan, the former capital of Shah
Abbas, through the thin mist of the morning. Whenever a Persian, and,
especially a native of Isfahan, sets his eyes, after an absence of some
time, upon his native town he is sure to exclaim: "Isfahan is half the
world, but for Lahore," meaning thereby that Isfahan is, after Lahore,
the largest city in the world. But its beauty is only on the surface;
its streets are small, dirty and miserable.



XIII.

FROM ISFAHAN TO THE SUPPOSED TOMB OF CYRUS.


The bazaar here, as in other cities, attracted my attention, it being
the centre of every Eastern town. For hours one can wander through these
lofty and covered streets, branching off in every direction and leading
to every part of the town, and a stranger, unless conducted by a
practical cicerone, may very easily lose his way. The sight of this
bazaar must have been a truly magnificent one while the town was in a
flourishing condition, but now it is almost deserted, and in the many
splendid and spacious shops only stray water-melon sellers still linger.

A road leads from the bazaar to the celebrated _Meidani Shah_ (the
Shah's chief public square). This is an immense square, enclosed on
every side by shops, which were in olden times the marts for the most
costly articles of luxury, but are now crumbling into dust. I then
visited the mosque of Lutf Ali, the gates of which are said to have been
covered in ancient times with silver. From the balcony of this building
the view is a splendid one, and I enjoyed a truly impressive sight.
There lay stretched out before me the immense square of Meidani Shah,
and in my imagination I conjured up the ancient splendour of the city
and repeopled the square with surging crowds. I fancied I saw the great
Shah Abbas review from this very balcony thousands of his warriors who
had gathered from every part of Asia to pay homage to their powerful
king; the Persians who had inherited the horsemanship of the Parthians,
the Turkomans on their swift Arab steeds, the Afghans, the Georgians,
the Indians, the Armenians--these savage and stalwart forms of
antiquity, they all used to gather here. And to-day it is a sad and
forlorn desert, the silence of the grave brooding over it. One corner of
the square serves twice a week as a market-place for dealers in asses,
and occasionally, on a holiday, a green turbaned procession headed by
the chief priest may be seen passing through it.

I had an opportunity of getting acquainted with all classes of the
inhabitants of Isfahan at the house of the Imam Djuma, _i.e._, the high
priest. He was the most influential priest in Persia, and at the capital
he went by the name of _Aga Buzurg_ (great lord). Indeed he was the real
Pope of the Shi-ite sect, and the letters of recommendation, brought
with me from Teheran, procured me admission to his house. I was very
cordially received by him and invited to call on him on the evening of
the following day. Aga Buzurg is one of those Seids whose descent from
the house of Ali is least doubted, and very proud he is of his origin.
The company I met there treated me as Shi-ites generally treat their
Sunnite guest--they could not refrain from occasionally launching out in
satirical and biting remarks. The master of the house only made a few
condemnatory remarks, blaming the government of Constantinople for its
friendship with the European Powers. But he did not omit to praise the
tolerance of the Sultan towards the Shi-ites, who could now journey,
unmolested, to Mecca and Medina, without being exposed to the annoyances
and outrages they had formerly to submit to. To avoid familiarity and
for the purpose of preserving his dignity, he was very chary of his
words, and retired very soon after supper was over.

I found the middle classes of Isfahan to be remarkably cultivated. There
were shoemakers, tailors and shopkeepers who knew hundreds of verses of
their best poets by heart, and were quite familiar with the masterpieces
in the literature of their country. They are, as a rule, very
intelligent, poetic, and quick at a telling retort. Malcolm, the
excellent English writer on Persia, relates the story how, at the time
when most of the high offices in the Persian towns were filled by
relatives of the Vezir Hadji Ibrahim, a merchant who was unable to pay
his taxes was summoned to the presence of a brother of Hadji Ibrahim,
the governor of Isfahan, and upon entering was addressed by the latter,
in an angry tone of voice, as follows:

"If thou art not able to pay like the others, begone, get thee gone!"

"Where shall I go?" asked the merchant.

"Go to Shiraz or Kashan."

"Oh, sir, then it would be going from the frying-pan into the fire, for
thy cousin is governing in one place, and thy uncle in the other."

"Then go to the king and make complaint."

"This would not help me much, either, for there again thy brother is
prime minister."

"Then go to h----," thundered at him the irate governor.

"Oh, sir, it is not so very long that thy sainted father, the pious
Hadji, is dead," retorted the witty Persian.

The governor thereupon burst out laughing, and said: "Since thou findest
it so hard to be reconciled to my relatives, I will pay thy debts for
thee."

I occupied in Isfahan the same lodgings as my fellow-traveller, the
singer of elegies. He found here ample opportunity to practise his art,
and exhibited his performances several times during the day, at the
bazaar and in the courtyards of the mosques. He yelled, bellowed, wept,
indulged in the most heartrending lamentations, and could, at his
pleasure, set going "the fruitful river in the eye" and shed a shower of
veritable tears. But on returning home, after the day's hard work was
over, the spirit of tragedy deserted him at once, and he gave way to the
merriest and most rollicking humour. I went, in his company, amongst
people of every kind and rather mixed societies, but he was a man
commanding respect everywhere. He would at first sing a sacred song or
two and then pass over to worldly ones; and although he wore a green
turban in token of his descent from the family of the Prophet, he drank
like a trooper.

The inhabitants of Isfahan are very proud of their city; they are rather
conceited, and think themselves better than the rest of the Persians.
The king and the royal family, with their Turkish soldiery, are dreaded
and hated by them. They look upon the authority of Imam Djuma as
superior to that of the king. Fabulous accounts are circulated about the
immense wealth of that chief priest, who keeps a thousand _lutis_
(strolling players) in his hire. These lutis spread amongst the people
wonderful accounts of the chief priest's miraculous power, and it is
they who scatter broadcast the vilest slanders concerning the royal
family, for the king having power over everybody except the chief priest
of Isfahan, the relations between him and Imam Djuma were never of the
friendliest kind.

I passed two weeks in Isfahan and had an excellent opportunity to see
the noteworthy sights and to observe all the classes of society in the
town. We made arrangements with the same leader of the caravan who
brought us to this place concerning the continuation of our journey, and
almost the entire company met at the appointed time at a caravansary
outside the town. We wasted three more days here, and I employed the
time in making short excursions in the neighbourhood. Of the remarkable
things I saw I will mention only the movable towers of _Munare
Djomdjom_. The two towers are on the mosque of the village of
_Khaledan_, about an hour's distance from Isfahan. They are about twelve
feet high and stand about twenty paces apart. I stepped with my guide on
the terrace, and upon his seizing hold of, and shaking with all his
might, one of the towers, I became sensible of a motion like that caused
by an earthquake not only in the other tower, but in the entire front of
the building. This remarkable building, the secret of whose architecture
has descended into the grave with its builder, has been considerably
damaged by the frequent exhibition of its movableness. The Persians
attribute the miracle to the saint reposing beneath it.

We left Isfahan at last, and proceeded on our way in the direction of
the mountains lying to the south. Upon reaching an eminence I took
another look at the endless mass of houses, gardens and ruins. Our
caravan, which consisted of three divisions, two having joined us for
our journey to Shiraz, now numbered above 150 animals and about sixty
passengers, and even on this much-travelled road we were looked upon as
a caravan of considerable size. The combining of the three caravans
into one was caused by the fear of certain nomadic Persian tribes who
were camped amongst the mountains to the right, and who were in the
habit of attacking and plundering smaller caravans either from avarice
or as a pastime. Only a few days had passed since a smaller caravan had
been roughly treated by them. In the East, however, people are fond of
inventing such stories. Many a time one is told, "At this place ten men
were killed yesterday," "The day before, at another place, a merchant
was set upon and robbed;" but the traveller need not take fright at
these accounts, for he may be sure that the events related either
happened ten years ago, or did not occur at all. Indeed our party of
travellers had no need of the frightful stories with which they had been
regaling each other on the eve of their departure to make their courage
ooze out, for to a man they were remarkably deficient in that valuable
article, the virtue of courage. Since the Persian in general is looked
upon in all Asia as a most cowardly creature, who is scared to death by
his own shadow, one may easily imagine the state of mind of a caravan
consisting chiefly of pilgrims, merchants and mollahs. It was rather
amusing to see them keeping close to, and crowding, each other in their
fright, although we were only at a distance of two hours from the town.
They were conversing in whispers as if a single loudly spoken word might
have brought down upon them the most frightful calamities. One man who
was conveying wine with which he had loaded four of his mules, was
peremptorily made to leave our ranks at the instigation of a devout
mollah, lest his sinful merchandise might bring bad luck to the entire
company of the truly faithful. It was in vain the poor mule driver
whiningly insisted that he had never tasted a drop of wine all his
life, and that he was conveying this abhorred beverage to Bombay where
the godless Frengis would drink it; in vain he swore by all the saints
of the calendar he did not even know if the wine were red or white; he
had to leave the caravan and keep a distance of a hundred feet between
himself and it.

Next day we arrived at _Kumisheh_, which is near to the dangerous place
about which we had heard so many frightful stories. About an hour before
our departure my Arab friend, the sacred singer, thought that this was a
fitting moment to collect about him the whole company and to chant one
of his elegies, in order, as he said, to invoke the prophet's protection
on our perilous journey, but in reality that a few coins might wander
from the pockets of the deeply affected faithful into his own. The
rawzekhan's proposition was immediately acquiesced in. The Persian is
prepared at any moment to lament the death of his favourite prophet,
particularly of the martyred Hussein; and it does not give him the
slightest trouble, though the moment before he may have been in the
merriest of moods, to shed copious tears in listening to the singer's
elegy. The songster from Bagdad was soon surrounded by the whole
company, and he hardly came to the end of the fourth canto of his
morning song, when there arose such a wailing and weeping as if the
nearest relation of every one of the listeners were lying stark dead
before him. The performer usually seizes this moment to rise, tear away
his dress from his breast, and to exclaim, clenching his fists: "O ye
true believers, behold thus I shall strike my breast with penitence and
pity for poor Hussein, yes, for Hussein!" His last words are repeated by
all the men of the company; gigantic fists are soon pounding away at
stalwart chests, frequently keeping in the pounding such excellent time
as to resemble the regular tramp of an approaching troop of horsemen. A
pious fellow happened to observe that, with Sunnite perverseness, I did
not thump my chest with sufficient violence, and having attentively
listened to the sound produced by my fist and not finding it hollow
enough, he furiously exclaimed: "Look at this Sunnite dog; he does not
consider our Hussein worthy of more powerful strokes on his breast. Just
wait; I shall show him how to strike his breast." With this he
approached me with his uplifted fist of iron. If he had struck me I
should, probably, have had reason to remember it all my life; but thanks
to the kind offices of my friends, particularly the Seid, the matter
proceeded no further. A friend of mine held his arm back in the nick of
time, quieting him by saying: "Let that Sunnite be! though he do not
strike his breast in this life, Azrail (the Angel of Death) will beat it
all the more for him in the next world."

We safely left the place alleged to be dangerous without having come to
harm, and the caravan, now considerably relieved, proceeded on their
journey towards _Yezdekhast_. The country around us became more and more
flat; the desert, in the centre of which the celebrated city of Yezd is
situated, extending to the east. The sun had already risen high when we
passed through the arid grass-covered plain, its level stretch being
interrupted only here and there by gently undulating ground. I had been
informed by my companions that the country abounded in game and
especially in gazelles. And, indeed, in looking steadily at a dark dot
in the distance, I soon discovered it to be a whole herd of these timid
creatures of the desert, who scent the approach of a caravan from afar
and fly from them with the swiftness of a bird. I had some difficulty at
first in recognizing the gazelles at a distance, the colour of their fur
resembling that of the sun-dried grass of the plain; and when my
companions called out "The ahuan, the ahuan!" (The gazelles, the
gazelles!), I could see nothing, until my eyes became accustomed to
distinguish their white hind parts from the dry grass. Just as with us
the hare is supposed to be the embodiment of timidity, even so the
gazelle is looked upon in the East as the hare's counterpart in this
particular. A herd of above a hundred gazelles is seized with a panic at
the sudden rising of a bird, or the mere stirring of a leaf. If the
hound but approaches the gazelle, it throws itself upon its back with
its legs up and looks at one with such a pitiful expression out of its
lustrous melancholy eyes, that one cannot help feeling for the poor dumb
animal. As my eyes were following the flight of the gazelles, I suddenly
caught sight of a mirage rising in the south-east. These deceptive
illusions of the air are by no means of infrequent occurrence in the
Persian plain. Although they do not equal in grandeur similar
atmospheric phenomena in the great desert of Turkestan, yet, even in
that fainter form, they never fail to strike the imagination of the
traveller. As I was gazing upon the floating forms and buildings, it
seemed to me as if they were the same which had delighted my eyes years
ago on the great plain of the beautiful Hungarian Alföld (Lowland).
Then, too, leaning against the tall pole of a well, I was gazing at the
far-stretching plain which, panting and thirsting, was "dreaming of the
sea." The mirage recalled my own beautiful country, so far off, and when
suddenly a rising cloud of dust concealed the fairy spectacle from my
view, it seemed to scatter my day-dreams to the winds.

The province of Fars begins beyond Yezdekhast, and its inhabitants
differ from the Persians as much, I should say, as the Neapolitans do
from the inhabitants of Northern Italy; their complexion is darker, they
are more vivacious, their feelings are more excitable, and they are
more quickwitted. The greater portion of the inhabitants make a living
by the caravans that are passing through their country. _Shulghistan_,
our first station in Fars, is noted for the tomb of a saint, supposed to
be the son of Imam _Zein ul Abedin_. Of this tomb it is told that, some
time ago, it had been attacked by enemies, who were all struck blind
upon entering the sanctuary. A blind beggar at the gate of the tomb was
shown as one of the sacrilegious band, who desired to end his days
repenting. I was sufficiently interested to wish to hear the account
from the lips of the blind beggar himself, and questioned him about this
occurrence; but he admitted to me that his blindness proceeded from
other causes, and that he had never been connected with a band of
robbers. Yet he willingly passed himself off for an evil-doer punished
by God in order to get his share of the alms distributed by the devout.

In leaving Shulghistan we were joined on our way by a horseman of
distinguished appearance, followed by a number of servants, whose place
of destination was the same as ours. He seemed to be mustering closely
the members of the caravan, as if trying to make up his mind whom he
should choose for his associate during the journey. After a while he
approached me with the friendliest salutation. I soon found out that he
was going to visit the governor of Fars, by orders of the Shah, in order
to collect last year's arrears, amounting to 50,000 ducats. The Shah had
been repeatedly urging the remittance of the sum, but it was never sent.
The Khan was now ordered by the Shah to send the unremitting governor to
prison for a few days; and should this punishment fail to produce the
desired effect to withdraw for a couple of days his _kallian_
(water-pipe) from him. This peculiar method of collecting debts is by
no means rare in Persia. The Khan was a person of refinement and
culture; he was very tolerant, and to him Sunnite or Shi-ite was the
same thing. He saw in me the most travelled and experienced man in the
caravan, and had therefore joined me, of which I was all the more glad,
as it had procured for me a very agreeable fellow-traveller. When we
arrived at our next station, Abade, we took a lodging together, and also
took our meals together.

From _Abade_ we went towards _Surma_, and we met on our night's march
with several smaller caravans, consisting mostly of pilgrims, who were
either bound for Kerbela, in the west, or Meshed, in the east. In Persia
the number of pilgrims, especially during the seasons of spring and
autumn, amounts to hundreds of thousands. The poorest Persian will spend
all his savings, nay, even starve, in order to take part in such a
pilgrimage. The caravan we met with had come from the neighbourhood of
_Bender Bushir_, and was going to Kerbela. The journey there takes sixty
days, and the journey back as much again. The lively intercourse on the
highways of Persia is chiefly dependent upon these pious travellers. It
is no rare thing to see amongst them children ten years of age, and aged
women eighty years old. If two such caravans meet on the road, those
returning generally tell the pilgrims on their way to the holy places,
"Pray for me;" and receive for an answer, "May thy pilgrimage be
blessed." Both parties are deeply moved, and generally embrace each
other upon these occasions; indeed the most indifferent will feel
somewhat affected upon hearing, far off, in the stillness of the night,
the _Illahie_ (hymns) of the pilgrims. I had heard much to excite my
curiosity with regard to our next station. Many notable ruins of ancient
times may be seen in _Maderi Suleiman_, and the Persians think that the
tomb of King Solomon's mother is amongst them; but I had no difficulty
in identifying the village of Maderi Suleiman, lying in the plain of
_Passargada_, as the one where the tomb of _Cyrus_ is supposed to be. In
descending the gentle slope of the low range of mountains and entering
the open valley before us, I was delighted to discover on the right of
our road several statues gilded by the first rays of the rising sun. The
slow pace of the caravan rendered me impatient, and I finally left them,
hastening by myself through thin and thick towards the mausoleum, which
rose higher and higher as I approached, and when the caravan with their
deliberate gait at last reached the station, I was found there seated
already on a huge marble step.



XIV.

PERSEPOLIS.


The first thing that strikes the eyes of the traveller on the flat land
of ancient Passargada is that mausoleum, of which Persians say that it
contains the remains of King Solomon's mother, but which some
antiquarians allege to be the tomb of Cyrus, whilst others, denying
this, maintain that it commemorates some unknown hero of antiquity. It
is built of huge marble blocks, and stands upon a marble base formed by
six marble slabs of enormous thickness placed one upon the other; each
slab terrace-like diminishing the higher it is placed, and the whole
forming six steps. The structure above it is a room, the floor and
ceiling of which consists each of one enormous block of marble. The
narrow low entrance is always open. The Mohammedans use the interior of
the room for their devotions, and several Korans are always lying about
for that purpose. After I had with great difficulty clambered up the
huge steps and gained admission to the interior of the mausoleum, I was
struck with awe at the sight before me. I gazed for some time with
astonishment at the huge blocks, to move which from their places seemed
an utter impossibility. The names of numerous celebrated European
travellers could be seen carved into the marble steps, whilst the walls
were covered with a great many Arabic and Persian inscriptions. I was
just engaged in deciphering the latter when a Persian, apparently
belonging to the nomadic tribes living in tents in this part of the
country, came up to me, evidently in the hope of earning a few pennies
by doing a guide's business, and said, "Hadji, there are no such huge
blocks to be seen in Bagdad, are there? But come with me, I shall show
thee others like them. Come and look at the ruins of ancient Guzi." I
immediately followed him to the ruins of the ancient palace, popularly
called "Solomon's Throne." At some distance may be seen a large arch of
a gate, built of black marble. If a Persian sees a stranger admiring the
beauty of these ruins, or astonished at the size of the stones, he
invariably volunteers the following remark: "Art thou not aware that
Solomon could freely dispose of the _divs_ (devils) and all the spirits
of the lower regions? It cost him but a nod of his head, and the spirits
sailing through the air brought him the largest stones and the most
costly objects from India, Tchin-u-Matchin (China) and from Kuhi Kaff."

We continued our journey toward _Sivend_, going for several hours
through a mountain gap. We did not visit the village, but went up to an
eminence near by, where its inhabitants lived during the summer. We
found there about 120 huts standing in a line, close to each other. The
whole settlement resembled a bazaar; and as the huts were closed on
three sides and always remained wide open on the fourth, the huts and
everything in them were open to every one alike, as much as if all the
huts had formed but one house. One hundred and twenty families live here
together in simple patriarchal fashion; and although there be rich and
poor amongst them, a theft rarely occurs. Indeed people said that the
population of the whole village were the descendants of one common
ancestor, and lived together on terms of the most intimate relationship;
and that, even to this day, they were governed by the head of the
family, who was both judge and priest to them, and lived apart in a
white tent.

[Illustration: TAKH-TA-RA-WAN (A Moving Throne used by the Persian
Nobility).]

In leaving this place, on the 2nd of October, we proceeded towards the
most interesting parts of Persia. The caravan was not far from _Kenare_,
in the vicinity of which the celebrated ruins of Persepolis are to be
seen. With the prospect of soon seeing these ruins before me, I found
the progress of the caravan rather slow, and determined to visit them by
myself, after having inquired of some of my companions, who knew the
country throughout, the shortest road leading to them. The caravan had
left Sivend before midnight, and when we arrived at the promontory where
the extensive plain of _Mardesht_ begins, I separated from them, and,
keeping continually to the left, I followed the mountain track. For some
time yet I heard through the calm night the monotonous jingling of the
caravan bells. I marched on with watchful eyes, looking out all the time
for the much-mentioned ruins, the remarkable architectural monuments of
remote antiquity. After lapse of about a quarter of an hour there loomed
up in the dubious light of the dawning morning tall forms, looking like
so many spectres. The stillness around me seemed awful, and the clatter
of my animal's small shoe sounded far away in the unpeopled solitude. I
now came to the celebrated steps, so familiar to most people through
engravings of them. At sight of them I paused, deeply moved, and stood
motionless for a few minutes. I dismounted, and, drawing nearer, I went
up the steps with feelings of piety and profound veneration, then passed
through the gigantic gate to the row of columns. I sat down on a large
block and, sunk in deep reverie, gazed upon the columns and the ruins
around me; and sitting there for a long time without stirring, it seemed
to me as if the spectacle of these ruins of four thousand years ago had
turned me, too, into a statue. The sublimity of the ancient monuments of
Persepolis cannot fail deeply to affect the traveller from whatever
point of view he may have approached them for the first time, even if he
has seen them in broad daylight. My feelings, then, may be easily
imagined, who had been longing to see them with feverish impatience, and
saw them suddenly burst upon my sight in the spectral twilight of the
early dawn. As I sat gazing with wrapt attention at the tall columns,
they appeared to me like gigantic forms which had risen from the remote
past of forty centuries to tell me, the traveller who had strayed here
from the far West, in language mute but eloquent, of the marvels of past
ages in the East. I did not awake from my reverie until the sun had
risen from behind the mountains and touched with golden tints the heads
of the columns, showing their exquisite workmanship. And in a moment, as
if a huge curtain had been suddenly drawn aside, a very different
spectacle presented itself to my dazzled eyes--Persepolis bathing in a
sea of brilliant light. The sombre blocks of marble, the darkling
columns and walls all disappeared as if by enchantment, and in their
places, glowing in a flood of golden sunshine, beckoned to me on every
side exquisitely carved capitals of columns, reliefs of wonderful
beauty, all so natural, so fresh as if the last sounds of the chisel had
just died away. One sculptured relief shows a solemn procession, in
which every man is walking with measured step; on another a troop of
prisoners, chained to each other by their necks, are advancing slowly in
front of the proud victor; another again represents a gigantic man
struggling with a monster. Looking up you see, in several places, a king
sitting, with earnest mien, on his throne, before him the sacred fire
blazing, and at back of him standing two servants, one holding a long
staff, and the other a sun umbrella. The finished accuracy shown in the
dresses and the figures is truly admirable; but the wonderful art
exhibited in the shaping of the features and in the various expressions
of the human countenance is what lends such a peculiar charm to these
reliefs, and makes one almost imagine that the cold marble will speak.

I passed three days among these remarkable ruins, which kindle not only
the fervid imagination of the young traveller, but rouse the enthusiasm
of grave thinkers and antiquarians rich in knowledge and experience. One
is at a loss to know which more to admire, the extraordinary manual
skill, or the exquisite taste visible everywhere, in every part of the
preserved ruins. Here, as in Egypt, may be seen huge blocks of stone,
from forty to fifty feet long, fitted together, in spite of their
enormous weight, with such nicety that one can only with great
difficulty discover the place where they are joined.

I met in the immediate neighbourhood of Persepolis with nomadic Turks,
who were overjoyed at seeing me, a supposed countryman of theirs. The
Turkish language is not spoken much in Fars, and these poor people
seemed so delighted with the chance of having a talk in their own
language, that in the kindness of their hearts they provided me, during
my whole stay, with bread and milk, and even took care of my ass. Some
of these men advised me strongly not to remain over night at the ruins
on account of the innumerable evil spirits that haunted them, and told
me that the devs and djins were making an infernal noise. They said that
_Thakhti Djemshid_ (Djemshid's Throne)--the native name for
Persepolis--was the work of the fabled king Djemshid.

This king is said to have had a cup, with which he had only to touch his
lips, in order to realize all his heart's desires; at the mere touch of
the cup, stones would come flying from the east, and artists from the
west. The numerous verses and inscriptions on every part of the walls
testify to the great respect entertained by the Persians for Persepolis.
The legend has it that these buildings stood intact and strong for ever
so long a time, and that during that time Persia was happy and
flourishing, and no sort of harm or misfortune ever befell her. Later on
the Arabs came, and they envied the Shi-ites for these wonderful
buildings, and in their envy they mutilated the statues and figures,
threw down the columns and left everywhere the traces of their
destructive spirit. After them came the Frengis, over Bender Bushir
(from India), to gratify their passion for treasures; they ransacked the
place and took away with them immense quantities of gold and diamonds.
The Frengis carried away besides large blocks of stone for talismans.
Since that time adversity and misery had been the lot of Persia; Shiraz
was visited by an earthquake, then came the cholera, the famine, and so
forth.

This is the account the Persians give of the ruins, but the Turkish
Nomads, the remains of the former Seldjuk armies, look at them in a
very different light. To them the masterpieces of architecture and
sculpture are objects of the utmost indifference, and they will often
pull down the proudest and most admirable monument for the sake of
obtaining a few ounces of the lead which holds together the several
segments or portions of the gigantic columns. The children are delighted
to see one of these columns come down by itself; they immediately make a
rush at it, and scoop the lead out of the crevices of the stones.
Sometimes they manage to obtain, after all this wanton destruction, lead
enough for a couple of bullets; but the vandalism of the Turks cares
very little about the damage done to works of art.

I felt a special interest in the names of the older and more recent
Asiatic travellers, which I found carved in many places about the ruins.
I met with even Hebrew inscriptions dating, it is alleged, from the time
of the first captivity of the Jews, and written by the unfortunate men
then dragged into slavery. Most names were those of renowned English
travellers; of German names there were comparatively few, and I grieved
at not being able to find a single Hungarian after two days' search. I
asked myself if I were the first of my countrymen who had visited this
interesting country with its remarkable ruins. Next day, I was delighted
to come across the following Hungarian inscription, "Maróthi István,
1839," in a recess of a window, as I was examining the base of an
immense structure, built of black marble. I examined my countryman's
writing with a childish triumph; and to relieve its loneliness, I added
my own name for companionship, writing above the latter, "Eljen a
Magyar!" (Hungary for ever!)

A caravan, camping outside the village and consisting mostly of pilgrims
returning from Kerbela, was starting a little after midnight. I joined
it, and on the following morning I was glad to learn that I had every
reason to be satisfied with having done so, for all of the travellers
came from _Zerkum_, the place nearest to Shiraz. They had passed the
night here, although it is not far from their native place, in order to
afford time to their relatives and friends, to whom they had sent
information of their approach, to make the necessary preparations for
their festive reception. As we drew near the village we were met by
crowds of people, who were constantly reinforced by newcomers, and there
was no end to shaking of hands, embracing and kissing. Every one of the
pilgrims from Kerbela was surrounded by a group of village people, and
not only he himself, but his ass, too, were carried home in triumph. As
we were marching along the streets of the village, I could not help
admiring the patience with which the pilgrims bore the ever-increasing
felicitations of the villagers. Some of them, especially the stouter
ones, were freely perspiring from the many embraces, but they all
heroically endured the infliction; nay, they delighted in it, for to
have visited Hussein's the beloved martyr's tomb, was tantamount to
having been raised above the common herd, and to embrace such a lucky
mortal was worth nearly half a pilgrimage to Kerbela.

I left Zerkum in the company of a _tcharvadar_ (owner of animals of
burden) and his men, and we proceeded together to Shiraz. These people
were from Shiraz, and having been absent from their native place for a
long time, they were impatient to get there. Every Persian is given to
exaggeration in speaking of the sights and wonders of his native city,
but these men went beyond anything I had yet experienced in the way of
civic glorification, and I could not help looking forward to something
extraordinary in Shiraz. The recollection of some verses by Hafiz, full
of praises of the shores of _Ruknabad_ and the flowery places of
_Musalla_, which I had retained in my memory, contributed to raise my
expectations to the highest pitch. We had been advancing for about half
an hour when the shout of "Ruknabad! Ruknabad!" burst simultaneously
from the lips of my companions. I immediately dismounted, thinking we
should have to pass over the bridge, crossing the river, and wishing, in
doing so, to lead my animal by the bridle; but my pains were all wasted.
The Ruknabad river, of which poets deemed it right to sing, had shrunk
into an insignificant brook hardly three spans wide, the shallow waters
of which gaily leap over its gravel bottom.

I own my expectation about Shiraz received, at this sight, a slight
shock, nor were my drooping spirits revived by the appearance of the
surrounding country. Cold, bare rocks were staring at me on every side;
there was not the slightest trace of vegetation of any kind; yet my
companions kept assuring me that we were quite near to Shiraz. We
reached at last an opening, called _Tenghi Allah Ekber_ (the pass of
Allah Ekber) by the Persians. From this place the traveller obtains his
first view of the wide-spreading valley below him, in the centre of
which rises the city of Shiraz.



XV.

SHIRAZ.


The sight of Shiraz, standing in the midst of groves of thickly planted
cypress trees, is quite a relief for the eye, wearied with the
monotonous look-out upon the barren desert and bare rocks. The natives
say that looking at the enchanting capital of Southern Persia from the
spot whence I first saw it, the stranger in his admiration involuntarily
bursts out into the customary "Allah Ekber" (God is greatest), and that
the place owes its appellation to this exclamation. The eye, wandering
over the extensive valley, meets everywhere, as far as it can reach, the
exquisite dark green of the cypress. The city is fringed by a garland of
cypress gardens, through which a wide brook meanders like a silvery
ribbon. Proud edifices rear their heads both inside and outside the
walls of the city, the brilliant cupola of the Shah Tchirag mosque
looming up most conspicuously. Beyond and opposite to it the
far-stretching plain is bordered by a lofty chain of mountains
stretching through Kazerun as far as the shores of the Gulf of Persia.
Thus the valley is screened by natural walls of rock both to the north
and south, and Shiraz stands foremost amongst all the cities of Persia
in the matter of climate, fertility and purity of air.

Shiraz owes its fertility especially to its great abundance of water.
Its vegetation is so luxuriant that roses and other flowers are blooming
throughout the whole year, the plants renewing their sweet-smelling
crops every month. The fields are covered with a green sward, and whilst
in other parts of Persia the favourite mutton can be got but twice in
the year, it can be obtained here throughout all seasons. But what
challenges most the admiration of the Western traveller is the
exquisitely pure air, the beauty of its blue sky, excelling in these all
other parts of Persia, the whole of Asia and, I may add, every country
in the world. The air in Shiraz, in spite of its southern position, is
bracing enough, and I do not at all wonder that the people, under the
influence of their benign climate, are fond of pleasure, and pass their
lives in continual amusements and everlasting merry-making. They have a
proverb which says:

   "In Isfahan many scholars and artists may be,
    But dancers, singers and drinkers only in Shiraz you see."

And, indeed, I do not know of a town in Persia, the inhabitants of which
are as merry and jovial as those of Shiraz. Centuries have passed by
since Hafiz, the glorifier of wine, sung his odes here, but a sojourn of
a very few days in the capital of Fars will convince any one that the
people of Shiraz have not modified a hair's breadth their views of life
since the time of Hafiz. Everybody indulges freely in wine in spite of
the rigid inhibition of the Mohammedan law. The poor journeyman, the
mechanic, the official, and even the priests, begin their libations as
soon as the dusk of evening sets in, and keep up their merry-making
until midnight, and even later.

As I had now reached the end of my immediate journey, and intended to
make a protracted stay, I took lodgings at the large court of the
mosque. I sold my animal, and although the funds I had brought with me
were considerably reduced, my future gave me little concern,
considering, especially, the abundance and cheapness of food. True to my
part of a dervish, I wandered through the streets of the city, on the
first day of my arrival, and made the acquaintance of a great many
people. Of course, my acquaintances, being zealous Shi-ites, never
neglected an opportunity in my presence of cruelly vilifying Omar and
his associates; but seeing that I bore their vituperations of my saints
very meekly, they were highly pleased with me, and I made so many
friends during the first weeks of my stay that they rendered my life
very agreeable.

One day, I happened to learn that a European, a native of Sweden, was
living in the city and practising as a physician. My love of adventure
immediately suggested to me the propriety of paying him a visit; but I
determined, as a matter of precaution, to keep up my incognito and to
appear before him as a dervish. When I entered his room with the
dervish's salutation of "Ya hu! Ya hakk!" the good doctor immediately
put his hand in his pocket, in order to get rid of me by a gift of a few
coins, the usual way of dismissing a dervish.

"What, dost thou give me money?" I exclaimed. "I come to seek thy
confidence, not thy money. I come from a far-off country. I am sent to
thee by my chief, to convert thee from the false religion that thou
followest and to lead thee to the path of the true faith. I am charged
by the Sheikh of Bagdad to make a Mussulman of thee."

The doctor to whom such attempts at proselytizing were by no means new,
replied with a suppressed smile:

"This is all very fine, very fine, my dervish, yet it is not usual to
try conversion in such a commanding way, but by convincing, affecting
and eloquent speech. How canst thou prove to me that thy chief has sent
thee to me, and that he can work miracles?"

"Hast thou any doubts about it? One syllable from my master is enough to
bestow the knowledge of all the sciences and languages of the world.
Thou art a Frengi, and speakest probably many tongues. Put me to trial
in any language."

The doctor stared at me, and I had some difficulty in maintaining my
reserve. Finally he addressed me in Swedish, his native language.

"Swedish," I said, "I know that language as well as thou dost." As a
proof I recited to him a few verses from Tegnér's "Frithiofs Saga,"
which, having been my favourite reading in my youth, came vividly back
to my memory. The doctor's surprise knew no bounds. He began to try me
in German, and to his astonishment I readily answered him in German,
too. He did not fare any better with his attempt to upset me with French
and English; and after having exchanged with him a few words in various
languages, I returned to Persian and recited very impressively a verse
from the Koran for the good of his soul. The poor man was utterly
stupified, but when he began to take to guessing at my real nationality,
I abruptly rose and made the following farewell speech: "I will give
thee time to reflect until eight o'clock to-morrow morning; either thou
wilt turn Mussulman, or thou shalt feel the power of my master."

I returned to my quarters, but I had scarcely got out of bed next
morning when I found the good doctor waiting for me. His curiosity did
not allow him to wait until I came. I continued the old game with him at
first, but finally I dropped the mask, and told him who I was. The
delight of the doctor was great, and we embraced as if we had been two
brothers. "I immediately thought you were a European," he said, "but
your Persian talk made me doubt of it." He inquired about Teheran and
his acquaintances there, and insisted, after we had been talking for
some time, upon my gathering up my things and following him to his
dwelling, in order to remain his guest as long as I desired it. To my
Persian friends I pretended that I made my stay with the doctor in order
to receive instructions in alchemy from him, a science which he was
known to have cultivated before, and, besides, my living with him seemed
less strange to them from the fact of Europeans in Shiraz living
entirely in Persian fashion. I passed six of the pleasantest weeks at
his hospitable house. I chiefly employed my time in studying the
customs, manners and modes of life of the interesting inhabitants of
Shiraz. The most striking feature about them is their extreme
excitability and irritability. Everybody, without exception, carries a
two-edged curved poniard in his girdle, and is ready to make use of it
on the slightest provocation or difference of opinion. Nor is there
another city in Persia where so many lives are taken in such a careless
manner. Once I was witnessing a richly dressed Persian walking
superciliously along the narrow side walk of the bazaar whilst another
Persian came from the opposite direction. The latter, in his hurry, did
not know exactly which side to take in order to pass the former, and,
as is usually the case on such an occasion, danced before the irate
Persian from right to left. The latter, who evidently belonged to the
better classes, drew his poniard without another word, and mortally
stabbed the innocent man. This happened in broad daylight, in the
presence of thousands of people; it may thus be easily imagined what
frightful things are occurring in the darkness and seclusion of night.
The dreadful cases one daily hears of make one's blood curdle; but the
punishment dealt out by the Government is not a whit behind these
atrocities in their extreme ferocity. To have the belly split open, the
limbs maimed, and to be torn to pieces by horses are, by no means,
unusual punishments, and once it happened that the governor caused four
culprits to be buried together in a pit and had burning lime poured over
them afterwards.

One day, in the company of my kind host, I visited the grave of _Saadi_,
the celebrated poet and moralist. It stands in a secluded gorge of the
valley, and over it is a very fine building erected by _Kerim Khan_ and
surrounded by a little garden kept in excellent order. Mounting several
steps, we first passed through sundry minor chambers, until we came to a
large open hall, in the centre of which rose a marble sarcophagus,
bearing masterly inscriptions in Arabic. In the water-basin of the
garden there used formerly to be fish, and it is said that the
enthusiastic visitors of Saadi's grave would hang golden rings on them,
to steal which was looked upon as the greatest sacrilege. There is a
small village in the neighbourhood of the grave called _Saadi_ in honour
of the great poet, and a gate in the city, looking towards the grave,
bearing the name of _Dervazi Saadi_ (Saadi's gate), as well as a bridge,
christened _Pul Saadi_; which are all evidence of the veneration in
which he is held to this day. But this great poet and scholar is an
object of veneration not only to the people of Persia but to every
Mohammedan in the Asiatic world. His _Gulistan_ (Grove of Roses, the
title of his book) is read with admiration and rapture in the middle of
China as well as on the extremest borders of Africa. Wherever schools
are attended by Mohammedan youths, there the Gulistan is sure to form
the basis of instruction. European scholars have long since appreciated
and admired the undying freshness of his style, his brilliant language
and his witty and telling similitudes. In one of the chambers of the
mausoleum I came across a respectable-looking grey-headed man, whose
clean garb and mild aspect formed a strange contrast to the dervish's
hat, denoting his calling. With engaging good humour he hastened to
address me, and I learned in the course of conversation that he was a
native of India, and that, prompted by his veneration for Saadi, he had
resigned his rank and given up his wealth at home, in order to pass the
remaining days of his life at the tomb of the great man. It is known
that Saadi was a dervish himself, but unlike the majority of that tribe
who assume the _Khirka_ (dervish's garb) in furtherance of their own
worldly aims, Saadi went roving about for thirty years meeting with
numerous adventures during his wanderings. He was, in turn, a servant, a
slave, a lord and celebrated scholar; and he even assumed the religion
of the worshippers of Vishnu, in order to extend and increase his
knowledge of all things. He despised wealth and the favour of princes,
and sought his only happiness in--as the Orientals metaphorically
express it--"perforating with the diamond of his soul the precious
stones of his experiences, and after gathering them on the string of
eloquence, hanging them for a talisman around the neck of posterity."
The grave of Hafiz, standing in a larger cemetery, may be seen not far
from Saadi's mausoleum. The site of his grave is marked by a monument of
white marble erected by Kerim Khan, and the inscription carved upon it
is a verse from his own book, the Divan. I frequently visited the grave,
and, to my astonishment, found at times a merry carousing company seated
about it, drinking their wine; at other times it was surrounded by
penitent pilgrims. The former look upon Hafiz as their great master in a
life of carelessness and jollity; the latter consider him a saint and
come here to beseech him to intercede for them. Some sing his songs
while the cheering cup is going the rounds, whilst others deem his book
as holy as the Koran itself. When any one wishes to read the fate in
store for him, he opens at random either Hafiz or the Koran, reciting
the following verses:

    Ei Hafizi Shirazi,
    Ber men nazr endazi,
    Men talibi yek falem,
    Tu Kashifi her razi.

(Oh Hafiz, of Shiraz, cast one look upon me; of thee I wish to learn my
future fate, for thou art the discoverer of all secrets); and having
done his invocation, he studies the page before him, construing its text
into a prophecy of good or bad fortune.

I had passed three months in Shiraz, and was so much pleased with the
city that I began to turn over in my mind the propriety of spending the
winter in the genial climate of Shiraz rather than in Teheran, and going
afterwards, when spring came, through Yezd and Tebbes to Khorassan. But
the arrival in Shiraz of two European travellers upset all my plans in
that direction. One of them was Count Rochechouart, a member of the
French Embassy in Teheran, who was travelling with a view to studying
the commercial condition of Persia, and the other the Marquis of Doria,
a distinguished member of the extraordinary Italian Embassy which came
to Persia at the same time that I did, travelling in pursuit of
zoological and botanical knowledge. Upon their arrival these
distinguished foreigners were received and feasted by the authorities.
After the official receptions were over, Dr. Fagergreen, my excellent
Swedish friend, invited them to his house, and the table spread before
his European guests literally groaned under everything that was good and
savoury produced beneath the southern skies of Persia. The doctor's face
beamed with inward satisfaction as he rose, glass in hand, to propose a
toast in honour of the three nations represented by the guests sitting
at his hospitable board. The good man was happiest if he could entertain
a European traveller in his house, and overwhelmed him on such occasions
with kindness. I had met such a friendly reception and generous
treatment at the hands of the kind-hearted doctor, he had proved such an
unselfish friend to me, that I became quite attached to him. I therefore
received with feelings of keen regret the invitation of Count
Rochechouart to accompany him to Teheran, where he was soon going,
leaving behind him his Italian fellow-traveller, the Marquis, who
intended to prolong his stay in Shiraz in order to enjoy its unrivalled
climate. Yet I was bound to accede to the French nobleman's proposal,
although it involved an immediate separation from my friend, as I was
nearly destitute of everything, and expected to derive some advantages
from making the journey back in his company. I had come here in the
guise of a begging dervish, and here was a chance to go back as a
European traveller, sharing in all the comforts at the disposal of a
gentleman travelling in an affair of state and representing His Majesty
the Emperor of France. I did not waver long; my mind was soon made up.
The Count remained in Shiraz three days longer in order to attend to
some matters, and at their expiration we were to return, in forced
marches, to Teheran.

On the day of my departure I went to take leave of my generous friend,
Dr. Fagergreen. I found him still in his bedroom in the upper storey of
his house. Our conversation frequently turned upon the probability of
our ever meeting again, and whenever I happened to touch upon my
Turkestan journey the tears would start to his eyes. I was deeply moved
by this heartfelt, genuine sympathy. I had to leave; I embraced him for
the last time; I seized his hand to give it a last hearty shake; but at
the very moment I received a shock as if the whole house were falling. I
glanced at my friend's face--it was pale as death. "Quick, for the love
of God," he cried; "let us call my wife and children, there will be an
earthquake. The earthquakes in Shiraz are awful, especially if the
shocks begin early in the morning."

We quickly collected his wife and children, and as we came down the
narrow staircase into the small yard, we heard an underground noise
approaching us with a hollow roar, as if the bowels of the earth were
about to open at our feet. The second shock was much more violent than
the first had been. The high walls and the surrounding edifices began to
totter from side to side with a loud creaking sound, and whilst I was
looking up to the sky, the cry of "Yah Allah! Yah Allah!" piercing to
the very marrow, was heard from every part of the town. The inhabitants
of Shiraz know but too well the frightful consequences of this elemental
catastrophe, and the stoutest heart may well quail at the deep roar in
the womb of the earth, at the cries of distress above, the very birds
fluttering about scared and helpless. For a few moments we stood still,
completely paralysed with fright. My host was the first to regain his
composure; he turned to me and said: "We are here in a very narrow
place. If this wall happens to come down we shall all be buried beneath
it. Take my wife and children to the nearest larger place. I shall
remain here for the mob is apt to take advantage of the general fright
to rob and plunder the house." I wished to reply, but the doctor
silenced me with a beseeching look, and taking hold of his trembling
wife and children, I left without saying another word. We passed through
a narrow alley crowded with pale and frightened people. The open space
which we reached in a few moments presented a harrowing picture of
distress and misery. Women and children were lying on the ground,
fainting, screaming and tearing their hair. Others were running to and
fro half clad or without any clothing on, as if they had just come out
of their baths. A few minutes had sufficed to deprive the whole city of
its senses. Amidst all this crying and screaming a couple of mollahs
(priests) went about continually repeating that the Frengis sojourning
in the city had brought on it this calamity. I began to entertain fears
for the safety of my friend, and retraced my steps as fast as I could.
As I reached the yard I observed the birds flying about and flapping
their wings in a restless and wild manner, which was a sure forerunner
of another shock. And indeed very soon we heard the deep roar which
usually precedes a violent thunderstorm. The earth shook beneath our
feet, and as the shocks came nearer and nearer to the place where we
were standing, the shock became so powerful that in spite of all our
efforts we lost our equilibrium, and, trying to steady one another,
sank together to the ground. I heard a frightful crash, and in another
second I had the sensation of water rolling over me, and thought my last
moment had come. This was the worst shock; a portion of the wall had
given way, and the water which had passed over our bodies came from a
neighbouring water-tank. Trembling and frightened, I looked round to see
if the building did not threaten to come down on our heads. In this
moment of despair the shout of the infuriated mob, "The Frengis are
unclean," reached our ears, followed by savage curses, and it seemed as
if the mob intended to take the house by storm. "To arms!" cried my
friend, but who would have had the courage to enter a house which
threatened to come down at any moment? We paused and looked at each
other, and then with one accord rushed into the house, returning
immediately armed with rifles and pistols. We had now to defend
ourselves both against the rage of the elements and the wickedness of
man.

These moments will remain for ever engraved in my memory. Suddenly we
heard a loud report, and soon after saw dense clouds of dust rising in
the air. Fortunately for us a building in the neighbourhood had fallen
down and scattered the savage mob. Before long the whole neighbourhood
became quiet. We did not feel another shock, but the whole city was
wrapped in a dense cloud of dust. The very mountains, lying to the
south, had been cleft in twain by these shocks which hurled down their
precipitous sides huge blocks of stone and rocks, with a noise like
thunder. Seeing that half an hour had passed without a renewal of the
shocks, I picked up courage enough to leave the house.

The destruction in the city had been much too cruel for any pen to be
able to present a picture of its terrible details. I met Count
Rochechouart in the street; with an anxious face he urged our immediate
departure. The leave-taking from my friend was short but affectionate.
Along the streets the huge cracks and fissures in the walls were yawning
at us, as we went on; to the right and to the left--everywhere--nothing
but desolation and misery were to be seen, whilst an expression of
indescribable discouragement and mute resignation was brooding over the
countenances of the people whom we met on our way. Our hearts yearned
towards these unfortunates in their present sad plight, but it was,
nevertheless, a feeling of relief to find ourselves, after passing
through the gates of the city, in the open air again, where our
fellow-travellers were awaiting our arrival. Outside there was an
immense crowd; those who had run to the open country for safety were
watching, with sinking hearts, for those members of their families who
had been left behind in the city, and in their unreasoning distress
inquired of us, who were perfect strangers to them, if we knew anything
about their whereabouts. Words cannot tell with what profound
satisfaction I descried at last Tenghi Allah Ekber, the spot from which
I had on my arrival admired the romantic situation of Shiraz. Ten years
before Shiraz had been visited by an earthquake far more calamitous than
the last. There is a legend amongst the people that years and years ago
the present site of Shiraz was covered by the waters of a lake, called
Deryai Nemek, _i.e._, the Salt Lake, lying to the east of it, and that
the city is doomed to final destruction by this very lake, which will
overwhelm it with its tide on the Day of Resurrection. We returned, in
forced marches, by the same way on which, three months ago, I had
wearily plodded on at the slow pace of caravan travelling. The journey
was enlivened by the fascinating conversation of the noble Count and,
now and then, by the chase of a herd of gazelles. The Persian horsemen,
riding in front, descried them with lynx-eyed quickness, and the
fast-running hounds were not long in overtaking them. At times, on our
coming to a city, solemn receptions were prepared for us, and, on such
occasions, there was no end of complimenting, sweetmeats, and feasting.
I came back to Teheran at last, in the middle of January, 1863.



XVI.

PREPARATIONS FOR MY JOURNEY TO CENTRAL ASIA.


I made it of course my first duty in Teheran to revisit the hospitable
circle of my patrons. Here I learned that the war in Herat was at an
end, and that, therefore, another obstacle to the carrying out of my
programme was cleared away. It has always been customary for the Turkish
Embassy to give some assistance to the hadjis (persons who have visited
the holy tomb of Mohammed) and to dervishes going every year from
Bokhara, Khiva and Khokand, through Persia, to the Turkish Empire. This
is a great boon to the poor Sunnite mendicants, who have no chance of
ever getting a farthing from the Persian Shi-ites. As a consequence the
palace of the Embassy had annually to entertain guests from far-off
Turkestan, and upon these occasions I took particular pleasure in having
the wild and ragged Tartars come to my room, where I contrived to learn
of them a good deal about their country that was interesting. They were
quite overwhelmed by my courtesy, and it soon became a familiar
saying at the caravansary where these people used to put up, that Haidar
Effendi, the Ambassador of the Sultan, was a man possessing a generous
heart, but that Reshid Effendi (your humble servant's assumed name) was
something more than that, for he treated the dervishes like brothers,
and most likely was, in secret, a dervish himself.

[Illustration: MAKING FRIENDS WITH THE TARTARS.]

It was nothing to be wondered at, therefore, since I enjoyed such a
reputation, that the dervishes should have called first upon me before
asking to be admitted to the presence of the Ambassador-in-chief who
frequently would not receive them. Many a time it was through my
intercession alone that they were able to obtain assistance in money, or
to have some other requests granted. In this way it happened that four
hadjis came to see me on the 20th of March, and asked me to introduce
them to the Turkish Embassy before whom they desired to lay their
complaints against the Persians for levying upon them, on their return
from Mecca, the Sunnite tax, the collection of which had been prohibited
long ago by the Sultan, a prohibition since ratified by the Shah of
Persia. "We do not come to ask money of the Sultan's great ambassador,"
said they, "we only wish to ensure that henceforth our Sunnite
countrymen shall not be compelled to pay a tax on visiting the holy
places." These unselfish words from the lips of an Oriental rather
puzzled me; I subjected my guests to a closer scrutiny and discovered in
them, in spite of the savage expression of their faces, their neglected
exterior and the shabbiness of their dress, a certain natural nobility
which did not fail to enlist my sympathies. Their spokesman, as a rule,
was a hadji from Chinese Tartary, or Eastern Turkestan, as it is
actually called; he wore over his tattered garments a new green _djubbe_
(an upper garment of cloth) and on his head a white turban of gigantic
size. His eyes sparkled with vivacity, and his superiority over the rest
of his companions became more and more apparent in the course of the
interview. He introduced himself as the Imam (court priest) of the
governor of Aksu, one of the provinces of Chinese Tartary, and as a
double hadji, having visited twice the holy tomb, and declared that he
and his three companions present were the avowed chiefs of a
hadji-caravan consisting of twenty-four men. "Our company," he added,
"is composed of the young and the old, of the rich and the poor, of the
lettered and the unlettered, yet we live in the utmost harmony with each
other, for we are all natives of Khokand and Kashgar (the names
frequently used to designate the whole of Chinese Tartary), and have no
Bokhariotes vipers of humanity amongst us."

The interview had lasted for about an hour, and the frank and open
manner of the men deepened the favourable impression they had made upon
me at the outset. Although the characteristic features of their race,
their careless and shabby attire, and the effects of the miseries of a
long and fatiguing journey, all combined to give them a wild, almost
repulsive appearance; yet throughout the whole interview my mind was
busy with the question of the feasibility of undertaking my travels in
Central Asia in the company of these very pilgrims. I was thinking that
being natives they would be the best guides I could possibly obtain, and
it was something to be known to them as Reshid Effendi, and to have been
seen by them as such at the Turkish Embassy. I did not hesitate long and
told them of my intention to join their caravan. Of course, I was
prepared for their putting questions to me about the purposes of my
journey, and I was equally clear in my mind that it would be both idle
and injurious to tell these men of the scientific researches I had in
view. They would have thought it ridiculous for an Effendi, a gentleman,
to expose himself to untold dangers for the sake of some ideal object,
and indeed might have entertained all sorts of suspicions against me had
I told them the truth. I had to resort to a subterfuge which both
flattered my guests and advanced my interests. I told them that my soul
had been harbouring for a long time the secret but most ardent wish to
visit Turkestan (the only country abounding in genuine Islamite virtues)
and the saints of Khiva, Samarkand and Bokhara. "This longing desire," I
continued, "had brought me from Roum (Turkey), and now after having
waited for a year in Persia for a favourable opportunity to gratify it,
I had reason to thank God for having sent me, at length, such men as
they were, in whose company I could continue my journey and attain the
most cherished object of my life."

It was an extraordinary struggle I had to overcome in inventing this
pretext, but I sought in vain for another means. My long experience with
Orientals of many countries and of various ranks had fully convinced me
of the utter uselessness of a straightforward confession of my purposes.
I knew that with these simple and ignorant men science and curiosity
must be discredited as the chief motors of my errand, and that all my
oratorical power would fail to convince them of the possibility that a
man living under the patronage of a high official of the Sultan was
ready to undergo all the hardships and perils of a distant journey, for
the sake of philological inquiries and for ethnographical discoveries.
Hard and reluctant as it was, I had to resort to subterfuge, and to
assume in their eyes a moral as well as a physical incognito.

The good Tartars looked at me and at each other in amazement after I
had done speaking. Finally they confessed that they had long ago thought
me to be a secret dervish, but that now they were convinced of the truth
of their surmises. They declared that they were highly pleased with the
distinction I was about to confer upon them by deeming them worthy of my
company. Their spokesman Hadji Bilal said: "We are all of us ready to be
not only thy friends, but thy servants, but I must call to thy mind that
the roads of Turkestan are not so safe as those of Persia and Turkey.
Often along our roads we do not see a house for weeks, nor can we get a
piece of bread, or even a drop of water. Besides this, we are kept in
constant fear of being killed, made prisoners and sold into slavery, or
buried by the sands in a hurricane. Therefore ponder this matter well, O
Effendi! Thou mightest repent the step later, and we should not like
thee to look upon us as the causers of thy misfortune. And, besides,
remember that our countrymen are far behind us in matters of experience
and knowledge of the world, and with all their hospitality are apt to
regard with suspicious eyes every comer from foreign lands. And how wilt
thou return, alone, without us?"

The effect of these words upon me may be easily imagined, but my purpose
was not to be shaken. I made them easy on the score of their anxiety
about me, I told them of the fatigues I had already borne, and my
contempt of earthly comforts, particularly of my dislike to the French
dress which I was compelled to wear, _ex officio_. I continued that I
well knew this world to be nothing but a five days' inn, as our sages
say, and that we are moving rapidly from it to give way to others. I
laughed to scorn those Mussulmans who instead of caring for the present
moment only, turn their thoughts to things which are going to happen
years hence. "Oh! take me with you, my friends," I exclaimed; "I must
leave this nest of errors, of which I am tired unto loathing."

My request touched them. The chiefs of the dervish-caravan accepted me
at once for their fellow-traveller; we embraced and kissed all around,
performances by no means pleasant considering the intolerable stench
coming from their bodies and clothing. But I scarcely looked at such
trifles, the main object of my discourse having been secured. My next
step was to hasten to Haidar Effendi, my benefactor, to tell him of my
intentions, and to request him to warmly recommend me to the hadjis I
was about to introduce to him. He objected at first to the whole plan,
and called me mad to wish to go to a country from which none of my
predecessors ever returned, and in the society of fellows who were
capable of murdering any one for the sake of a few pence. But when my
Turkish friends saw that all their arguments were of no avail, they set
to work to give me every possible assistance. Haidar Effendi received
the hadjis, settled their own matters to their satisfaction, then spoke
of me, representing my motives in the way I had put them before the
hadjis, commended me to their hospitality and protection, remarking that
they, in turn, could count upon his friendly service; "for," he added,
"he whom I give in your charge, Reshid Effendi, _is the Sultan's civil
officer_." I was afterwards told that the hadjis, at the audience where
I was not present, had solemnly vowed to fulfil their promises. And,
indeed, they honourably kept the word they had pledged. When the
audience was over the Ambassador asked for a list of the names of the
members of the dervish-caravan and distributed about fifteen gold pieces
amongst them. This was a munificent gift to people accustomed to live on
bread and water and utterly unused to comforts of any kind. The day of
our departure was fixed for that day week. Hadji Bilal's visits were
very frequent during this time, he bringing with him and introducing to
me all his companions, in turn; and I own that their exterior was not
apt to inspire confidence. These visits made me suspect that the pious
hadji looked on me as a rich prey and was anxious not to lose me. But I
conquered my suspicions, and showed the hadji, as a mark of confidence
in him, the small sum of money I intended to take with me, requesting
him, at the same time, to inform me precisely how I was to dress and
what mode of life I should follow in order to be as like to my
companions as possible, and not attract any undue attention. He was
highly pleased with my request and readily gave me his advice in the
matter. In the first place, he said, I was to shave my head and exchange
my Turkish costume for that of Bokhara; and in the next place, I must
leave behind me my bedding, linen and similar articles of luxury. Of
course I followed directions, which could be easily complied with, to
the smallest point, and was ready to embark in my perilous enterprise
three days before the appointed time. I made use of this interval to pay
a return visit to the caravansary where my future fellow-travellers were
staying. They were living in two small cells, fourteen of them in one,
and ten in the other. I never saw in my life so much of raggedness and
dirt crowded into such a small space, and the impression this misery
then made upon my mind still lives fresh in my memory. Only a few of
them were able to perform the journey out of their own means; the rest
of them had to resort to begging. When I entered they were busy with a
mode of cleansing themselves, the loathsome description of which I will
spare my reader, but which, alas! I too had to adopt in course of time.

I was very cordially received by them, and, according to their custom,
they immediately prepared some green tea for me, of which it took all my
heroism to swallow a Bokhara cup, the green liquid without sugar being
the worst thing mortal ever tasted. As a mark of their kind feelings for
me they offered me another cup of tea--but I politely declined, my
stomach admonishing me that it would refuse to take in any more of the
vile stuff. Then there ensued a scene of general embracing; I was looked
upon by all of them as their brother, and had this affectionate title
bestowed upon me; and, finally, after I had broken bread with every one
of them separately, we sat down to settle the definite details of our
route. We had two roads to choose from, both equally perilous from the
fact of their passing through the desert where the Turkomans are at
home. One of the roads by way of Meshed, Merv and Bokhara was less
fatiguing, it is true, but it would have taken us through territory
inhabited by the Tekke Turkomans, who have the well-deserved reputation
of sparing nobody and who would sell the Prophet himself into slavery if
he ever fell into their hands. The other road runs through a country
inhabited by the Yomut Turkomans, an honest hospitable people; but this
road included a desert, where for twenty stations not a drop of drinking
water could be obtained. After exchanging our views on the subject we
decided in favour of the latter road. "It is better," said the chief of
the caravan, "to brave the rudeness of the elements than to expose
ourselves to the wickedness of man. God is merciful; we are walking in
His ways, and surely He will not desert us." Our decision was now
ratified by an oath recited by Hadji Bilal. Whilst he spoke we held up
our hands towards Heaven, and when he had finished speaking every one
took hold of his beard and said a loud "Amen" to it. Then we rose from
our seats, and I was told to join them on the morning of the day after
next in order to start on our journey. When I returned to the Embassy a
last attempt was made by my friends to turn me from my purpose. They
recalled the tragic fate of Conolly, Stoddart, and Moorcroft, and the
case of Blocqueville who had fallen into the hands of the Turkomans and
was rescued from slavery only by a ransom of ten thousand ducats. But
the sad fate of others had no terrors for me, and I remained firm in my
determination to go.

I took leave of my friends at the Turkish Embassy on the eve of my
departure. Only two persons knew of the real destination of my journey;
the rest of the European colony thought I was going to Meshed.



XVII.

FROM TEHERAN TO THE LAND OF THE TURKOMANS.


According to appointment, I made my appearance at the caravansary on the
28th day of March, 1863. Those of my friends who could afford to hire a
mule or ass to take them to the Persian border were ready, booted and
spurred; the poorer, with pilgrim's staffs in their hands, were waiting,
too, for the signal of departure. I observed with astonishment that the
shabby garments worn by the party in town had been exchanged for other
far more ragged ones, hanging down in a thousand tatters and fastened by
means of a rope across the back, and learned, to my great surprise, that
the miserable dress worn by them in town was their best holiday attire,
which was now laid aside in order to save it. But yesterday I fancied
myself a beggar in my new costume--to-day I looked fit to be a
purple-clad king amidst my companions. Hadji Bilal at last raised his
hands for a blessing on our journey, and we had not fairly seized our
beards and said our customary Amens, when those of our party who were
to walk on foot made a rush towards the gate, in order to get ahead of
us who were seated on mules or asses.

The sun had risen to the height of a lance, as the Orientals say, when I
turned to give a last farewell look at Teheran, gilded by the early sun,
whilst my companions, like pious pilgrims that they were, raised their
voices and sang sacred songs. They did not take amiss my not joining
them, for they knew that the people of Roum (the inhabitants of European
Turkey) were not brought up in such a strict religious way as those of
Turkestan, but they hoped that in their society I should soon learn to
be more enthusiastic in religious observance.

The caravan numbered twenty-three besides myself; they were all from
Khokand and Eastern Turkestan, and mostly natives of Kashgar, Tashkend
and Aksu. Their chiefs were Hadji Bilal, of whom I have already spoken,
Hadji Sheikh Sultan Mahmud, a fanatic young Tarter, who traced his
lineage from a renowned saint, and Hadji Sali Khalifa, who was
endeavouring to obtain the rank of an Ishan (the title of Sheikh), and
belonged to the half-priestly class. They honoured me with their
friendship, and we four were looked upon as the chiefs of the caravan.
My name henceforth ceased to be Reshid Effendi and became Hadji Reshid.

We proceeded without any misadventure along the continually rising
heights of the mountain chain of Elburz. _Kemerd_ was our first station.
It offered nothing but a half-ruined hut of mud, in the middle of a
desert, its weatherbeaten walls threatening to give way at any moment.
The rain poured in through the chinks of the roof, and it was difficult
to find a hand-breadth of dry ground. It was dusk when we arrived, and
everybody hurried to get a dry place in the caravansary, myself
amongst the pushing crowd. My friend Hadji Bilal set to preparing the
_pilar_, and for want of fat, he poured on it grease obtained by melting
down some tallow candles. I was of course invited to take my part of
this luscious meal, but declined with thanks. Leaving the side of my
kind friend, I went amongst the beggars and Persian mule-drivers, and
drawing myself up into a corner, I thought, listening to the howling
wind and beating rain outdoors in the dark night, of my present
miserable condition, compared with that of last night at the palace of
the Turkish Embassy, where I was sitting at a sumptuous farewell
banquet, given in my honour, the wine glass freely circulating amongst
my friends. And now I should have deemed myself happy if I had but room
enough to stretch my limbs. To right and left of me fellows, ragged,
dirty, ill-smelling and abounding in a variety of little rovers, were
affectionately leaning on me; and, to cap the climax of my misery, a
Persian mule-driver, afflicted with the gout, sat down near me, now
moaning, now screaming with pain, whilst stentorian snoring was going on
all around me. My clothes were soaking wet with the rain, and I myself
was wet to the skin and shivering as if with a fit of ague. No wonder I
could not close my eyes all night, and felt so weak next morning that I
could hardly keep my seat decently in the saddle.

[Illustration: A DERVISH FEAST.]

We passed the following night much more comfortably in a village called
_Ghilar_. We divided into smaller troops, and I joined Hadji Bilal and
his intimates. We found quarters in a small room belonging to a peasant,
my friend inviting me again to take supper with him. This time I bravely
got over my squeamishness; my ravenous appetite made me indulgent
towards the nasty smell of the dish and the dirty hands of my
companions, who were using them vigorously in helping themselves out of
our common plate. The following morning I rose with renewed strength,
after a refreshing sleep, and began, with less anxiety, to look the
future in the face.

I was considerably amused by the remarks made regarding myself by some
Persian villagers, who, with clownish sharp-sightedness, were quick to
discover that I was neither a Tartar, nor even an Osmanli, but a Frengi
body and soul, availing myself of the society of dervishes in order to
visit Central Asia, a land almost inaccessible to Europeans. But of
these their surmises they never betrayed a single word to my companions;
the Persian Shi-ites' hatred of the Sunnite Central-Asians being such
that nothing affords them greater pleasure than to see their mortal
enemies imposed upon.

On the fourth day we reached an elevated plateau on which the town of
_Firuzkuh_ lies at the foot of a mountain topped by a fine ruin. I was
charmed by the beauty of both the town and the surrounding country, the
houses especially challenging my admiration for the neatness of their
architecture. A wide and deep mountain stream winds through the little
town in three different directions. Many and large caravans carry from
this place oranges, water-melons, sugar-canes, and other products of the
Caspian Sea, to Shahrud and Teheran, returning heavily laden with corn,
an article of food almost entirely wanting in this mountainous region.

Beyond Firuzkuh our road took us through a most romantic country. The
dense forests, spreading endlessly, the far-sounding roar of the huge
mountain cataracts, the bottomless abyss yawning between precipitous
mountain sides--made me at times almost imagine I saw the most beautiful
Alpine scenery of Europe before me. Even my companions, whose sense of
appreciation of the beauties of nature was but slightly developed,
became quite enthusiastic. We breakfasted near the ruins of _Div-Sefid_
(_i.e._, the white spirit), crowning a rocky peak. One of our Persian
fellow-travellers remarked that this rocky habitation in the air was
once the favourite resort of the White Giant whom Rustem (the hero of
Oriental legends) conquered and drove to the shores of the Caspian Sea;
that spirits of the deep then inhabited alone this paradise-like
country; and that it was fortunate that there were heroes at that time
who could expel these spirits, for surely the modern Persians would be
wanting in strength and courage to accomplish the deed.

The Persian travellers who had come with us as far as _Surkh-Abad_,
_i.e._, Red Abode, there took leave of us. The abundant wood and
excellent water we found caused immense delight to my Tartars. Whilst at
other times six and eight of them would cook by one fire, now each of
them kindled a separate fire whereby to prepare his tea. They made use
of the very embers, by divesting themselves of their clothes, and two of
them holding and drawing tight a piece of clothing at a time over the
fire, whilst a third would gently beat it with a small stick. The whole
proceeding seemed to me rather mysterious at first, but a peculiar
sound, now crackling, now hissing, soon showed that this was a mode of
putting to death by fire victims innumerable. The practice, when I first
saw it, filled me with disgust; the time arrived, nevertheless, when,
for cleanliness' sake, I indulged in it as zealously as any of those
present. We were nearly exhausted by our long march on bad roads, and as
soon as the dusk of evening approached we were all of us looking for
some place to rest in. We should have stopped at many a place in the
woods if some Persians had not warned us that the forest was full,
particularly at this season, of wild animals who, driven by their
predatory instincts, will at night attack strongly built houses, not to
speak of human beings camping in the open air. We were especially warned
against tigers. In spite of fatigue we were compelled to march on in the
woods until late in the night, when we came near several groups of
houses, standing apart and called _Heftten_; we settled down near them
on the margin of the forest. We decided to keep up a large fire during
the whole night, and that each of us should in turn keep watch near the
fire. Our nightly fire soon lit up the entire landscape; but the thicket
close to us still resounded with the stealthy tread and deep roar of our
ferocious enemies. A herd of hungry wild boars were looking out for
their prey, and the only way to keep them off was by discharging at
intervals our fire-arms at them. The jackals showed most remarkable
impudence; they would come quite near us and gambol around us like so
many domestic animals, not even minding our sticks. These animals will
watch you when you are too absorbed in conversation to keep your eyes on
your food or clothing, and catlike pounce upon either, in an unguarded
moment, and run away with it. The night passed, however, without any
mishap. On the following day I bought for a _penabad_ (about two pence
and a half) ten large fine and savoury pheasants. My Tartar companions,
too, bought a good many, there being a drug of them in the place; owing
to their inability to rise in the air in the dense woods, they are
killed with sticks by the thousand. For days the excellent roast,
furnished by their succulent and finely flavoured flesh, supplied the
place of bread, which is very expensive.

We entered _Sari_, which rises in the middle of a marshy country,
covered with mud from head to foot, owing to the miserable roads on
which we had to pass. The inhabitants, Persian Shi-ites, laughed at our
sad appearance, and a troop of urchins pursued us with insults and
cries, until we reached the gate of the caravansary. On entering the
bazaar, several men, in red-striped costumes and with peculiar
head-gears, stood still at our approach, raising their hands and looking
at us with great respect. They were Turkomans, residing here, who wished
to receive from us, their Sunnite brethren, just come from the Holy
Land, a _fatiha_[3] (blessing) while it was still fresh. We had passed
scarcely an hour at the caravansary when a number of others made their
appearance, bringing with them gifts of food for ourselves and our
animals. One of them paid his respects to me, and, following the example
of my companions, I gave him a blessing, which he rewarded by a gift of
tobacco worth a couple of shillings. I afterwards told Hadji Bilal of
it, and he took occasion to remark at this with brightening eyes: "Yes,
Effendi, we shall be free before long; we are coming to the land of the
Turkomans, our brethren in faith, and as much distinction is awaiting us
there as we have to suffer shame, contumely and contempt at the hands of
the Persians." I had become such a Sunnite, by this time, that his words
caused me real pleasure; forgetting, as all the while I did, the
frightful stories I had heard about the savageness and cruelty of the
inhabitants of the desert.

     [Footnote 3: _Fatiha_ means the opening chapter of the
     Koran, and is recited as a blessing.]

We passed two days in Sari. My companions were busy trying to sell their
asses, for we were to embark at the next station and wished to avoid the
trouble of shipping and taking the animals with us. In Sari we became
acquainted with several distinguished members of the Afghan colony, and
immediately on our arrival were invited by them to supper. There
happened to be other guests, merchants from _Karatape_, whilst we were
there, and our Afghan brethren warmly recommended them to the whole
caravan. These men served us, with the greatest alacrity, as guides to
their native place.

_Karatape_ owes its name to the black hill standing in the centre of the
village, one side of it being inhabited by Persians and the other by
Afghans. The first thing I did was to climb this hill in order to take a
passing glance at the Caspian Sea. From this spot the open sea cannot be
seen, it being concealed by a long and narrow strip of land, running far
into the sea, and looking, at a distance, like a line wooded with tall
trees. All I could descry was the sheet of water between this line and
the shore. I then hurried back to my lodgings to see how the
preparations for our passage to the Turkoman desert were progressing.
After a good deal of inquiry we heard on the following evening that a
Turkoman was about to sail directly for Gomushtepe, and was willing,
from feelings of kindness, to take all the hadjis with him. He wished us
to be ready on the shore early in the morning so as to be able to take
advantage of a favourable breeze. Hadji Bilal, Hadji Salih, and myself,
the acknowledged triumvirate of the beggar-caravan, immediately went in
search of the Turkoman whose name was Yakub. We found him to be a young
man still, with an air of boldness about him. He immediately embraced
every one of us, and declared himself willing to wait another day in
order that we might procure the necessary articles of food. We had here
to provide ourselves with flour, rice and other sustenance to last as
far as Khiva; the Turkomans themselves coming to this place to make
their purchases. Before all, Yakub asked a blessing of Hadji Bilal and
Hadji Salih, and as we were turning to leave he called me aside and
asked me to remain a few minutes longer. Of course I remained. He
confided to me, with some embarrassment, a case of unhappy and
unrequited love, of which he was the victim, and that a very clever
sorcerer, a Jew who happened to be just then in Karatape, had promised
to prepare for him a very powerful _nuskha_ (talisman) if he would take
to him thirty drops of oil of roses fresh from Mecca, which were
absolutely necessary for the writing of the magic formula. "I know,"
continued Yakub, "that the hadjis bring with them oil of roses and other
fragrant articles, and, thou being the youngest of the chiefs of the
caravan, I apply to thee and hope thou wilt comply with my request." Our
companions had, in truth, brought with them oil of roses, and they at
once gave him what he had asked for, to the great delight of the good
youth.

Early in the morning of the following day we were all assembled on the
shore. We now had each of us, besides our beggars' bags, a sack of
flour, and, owing to the shallowness of the shore and the consequent
distance of the vessel, which lay about a mile off the land, it took
considerable time before we were all of us safely carried by boat to the
vessel. The craft was a so-called _keseboy_, carrying a mast and one
sail, and engaged in carrying freight; she had brought oil of naphtha,
pitch and salt from the island of _Tchereken_, and was now sailing back
freighted with a small cargo of produce. We had to sit in two rows,
close to each other, in order to allow Yakub and his two men space
enough easily to move about. Our situation was not of the pleasantest;
it was tolerable during the day, but when at night we were oppressed by
sleep, we were often compelled to support the burden of a snoring hadji
for hours. Two sleepers together would sometimes lean on me, one from
the right and another from the left, yet I dared not wake them, for it
is considered a great sin to disturb the slumbers of the Faithful.

A favourable westerly wind swelled our sail on the 10th of April, and I
enjoyed the sail in the magnificent spring weather as well as I could in
my cramped position. A calm set in towards evening; we anchored near the
shore, and each of us in turn prepared his tea at the fireplace of the
vessel. We arrived on the following day below _Ashurada_, which forms
the southernmost point of Russia's possessions in Asia. The place makes
a favourable impression upon the traveller coming from Persia. One small
and two large Russian men-of-war are permanently in the harbour, for the
defence of the Russians in Ashurada and the sailing vessels bound for
the place. It happened more than once that, in spite of the strenuous
exertions of the military Russian governor, a great number of
unfortunate Persians, and not unfrequently Russian sailors, too, were
dragged in chains into slavery to Gomushtepe. The Russian vessels are
cruising day and night in the Turkoman waters, and every Turkoman
vessel, coming from the eastern shore and bound for the shores of
Southern Persia, must provide itself with a passport, which must be
produced in passing Ashurada. At such times the vessel is carefully
searched for slaves, arms and other articles forbidden to be carried.

Our Yakub, too, had his papers, which he produced on the evening we
arrived at Ashurada, in order that we might go on without further delay.
But it being rather late in the evening, the Russian officer put off his
visit to the vessels till next morning. We cast anchor not far from the
shore. I was uneasy all night at the thought of these Russian officers
coming to-morrow to make their visit on board, and possibly being struck
by my European features and complexion. I was not afraid of any inhuman
treatment, but I feared they might wish me to give up my journey and
discover my identity to my companions. The pleasant sound of church
bells roused me next morning. My companions told me that this was the
Sunday of the infidels and their holiday. One of the men-of-war in our
neighbourhood was beflagged all over. I observed, after a while, that a
boat, manned by sailors in full uniform, was sent from her to the shore,
and returned to the ship immediately with an officer in full uniform. In
about ten minutes we were called upon to draw nearer to the Russian
vessel, and I perceived that several fair-haired officers were standing
near the gangway. The nearer I approached the faster beat my heart, and
I tried, as well as I could, to place myself in such a way as not to
have to meet their eyes. The day being a holiday the search was made
very superficially, their interpreter exchanging a few words with Yakub,
whilst the officers were making fun of our party of beggars. I heard one
of them say: "Just look, how white this hadji's complexion is,"
referring in all probability to me whose face was less weatherbeaten and
tanned than my companions. Yakub was soon allowed to leave; and,
weighing anchor, our vessel, favoured by a fair breeze, bravely ploughed
the waters. In a few hours the Turkoman sea-shore, looking like a long,
moderately undulating line, rose before our eyes. Yakub and his men took
in the sail, the water ceasing to be navigable. We were about a mile and
a half from the mouth of the _Gorghen_, along the two shores of which
stretches the camp, called Gomushtepe, presenting the appearance of a
dense mass of beehives placed close to each other.



XVIII.

GOMUSHTEPE.


We had to wait out in the sea for a while, until the boats were sent by
Yakub to take us to shore. We were conveyed in small detachments to the
dry land, Hadji Bilal and myself remaining the last. When we stepped on
land we were informed that Yakub had already announced our arrival to
Khandjan, the chief of the Gomushtepe, and that the latter was hastening
to receive us at once. He was kneeling a few steps from us, engaged in
his noon-prayers; and having done, he rose and came towards us with
hurried steps. He was a tall, slenderly built, very plainly dressed man,
about forty years old, his long beard reaching his breast. He embraced
me first, and calling me by my name, cordially bade me welcome. Then
came Hadji Bilal's and Hadji Salih's turn, and our whole caravan being
together we all followed him to the tents. The news of our arrival had
already spread, and women, children and dogs promiscuously rushed out of
the tents to see the pilgrims, who, according to their mollahs
(priests), by their mere embrace make the untravelled partakers of
divine grace, and sharers, to some extent, in the merit of the
pilgrimage. The scene before my eyes was so novel, so surprising, that I
did not know which way first to turn my attention; the oddly constructed
cloth tents, and the women in their long silk skirts, reaching to their
heels, claiming it alike. Besides I had enough to do to satisfy the
hundreds of friendly hands extended to me to be shaken. The young and
the old, children and women, were striving to get near our persons in
order to touch the hadjis, to whose garments the holy dust of Mecca and
Medina was still clinging. We arrived in front of the chief Ishan's
(priest's) tent quite exhausted by the devout and hospitable reception.
We collected in one group waiting for quarters to be assigned to us. The
inhabitants who were gathered there almost engaged in a regular scuffle
about having us for their guests; every one wished to be the host of one
of the poor pilgrims, and much as I had heard of the hospitality of the
Nomads, it was all exceeded by what I had now an opportunity of
witnessing. The women especially were vociferous in their rivalry, so
much so that Khandjan himself was compelled to put an end to their
scrambling by making an equitable distribution of the pilgrims. He took
me, Hadji Bilal and those belonging to our own set into his own _ova_
(tent). In order to reach his tent, which was at the very end of
Gomushtepe, we had to pass through the whole camp, extending on both
sides of the river Gorghen. This river rises far away in the mountains,
abounding in fish to such an extent as to render its waters almost foul
at the best of times, and quite undrinkable in summer. Twice I washed in
it, and each time my face and hands smelt of fish.

The dusk of evening was approaching when we arrived, tired and
exhausted, at Khandjan's tent, hoping to get a little rest. Vain hope!
True, there was the tent destined for us, standing near that of
Khandjan, on the shore of the Gorghen, but scarcely had we taken
possession of it, with the customary ceremony of walking thrice round it
and spitting at each of the four corners, than visitors came crowding
into the narrow space. They remained till late in the evening asking us
thousands of questions which it taxed our whole strength to answer
properly. Our host at length took pity on us, and called upon our
visitors to leave us to ourselves in order that we might obtain some
rest. Supper, consisting of boiled fish and sour milk, was brought us
meanwhile by Khandjan's son, a boy twelve years old, called Baba
Djan--_i.e._, literally, the father's soul. The meal was brought into
the tent on a large wooden platter by a Persian slave, who dragged a
heavy chain after him. He was relieved of the dish by Baba Djan, who
placed it before us, and sat down by his father's side, while both
looked at us with genuine satisfaction as we fell to with our keen
appetites upon the dishes before us. After the meal was over we said our
prayers in the customary way. Hadji Bilal raised his hands, every one
present following his example, and as he finished by passing his hand
over his beard and saying, "Bismillah," Allah Ekber, his action was
repeated by everybody. Then Khandjan was congratulated on all sides on
account of his guests, and the visitors dispersed.

On the following morning, the 13th of April, as I awoke thoroughly
refreshed and invigorated by a night's sound sleep on a tolerably
comfortable couch, I found Hadji Bilal standing by my side and was
invited by him to take a walk. During the walk he sermonized me a
little, telling me that it was time I should doff the rank of Effendi,
and become a dervish body and soul. "Thou must have observed," he
continued, "that both I and all our companions, without distinction of
age, have said our _fatiha_ (blessing) on the men. This thou too must
now look to. I know that it is not the custom to do so in Roum, but here
people will wish it of thee, and they will find it very strange that
thou, professing to be a dervish, dost not fulfil the duties of a
dervish. Thou knowest the form of blessing; utter it with confidence and
a proper expression of devoutness. Thou mayest bestow the _nefes_ (holy
breath) too, if called to the bedside of the sick; but ever remember to
hold out thy hand, for well do these people know that we dervishes live
by our holy trade, and that a present is never amiss with us." He then
asked my pardon for having dared to instruct me, but, added, that he
meant it for my best. I need not say that I felt much obliged to him for
his advice and observations, which were prompted by the genuine interest
he took in me.

On this occasion my friend told me also that Khandjan and other
Turkomans had been inquiring about me, with a peculiarly mysterious air,
and that he succeeded, with great difficulty only, in persuading them
that my journey possessed no official character whatever. The Turkomans
thought I was going to Khiva and Bokhara on some secret and confidential
anti-Russian mission of the Sultan. Hadji Bilal was too sensible to
flatly contradict their impressions in the matter, well knowing that
they hold the Sultan in high respect, and that I should be benefited by
making them think more highly of me.

We returned to our quarters, and found Khandjan with his whole family,
his relations and numerous friends, already waiting for us. He brought
to us his wife and his aged mother, to obtain for them our blessing. We
blessed everybody present, one by one. Khandjan then declared that,
guests being according to Turkoman custom the dearest members of the
family, we could go about without let or hindrance not only amongst his
tribe, the _Kelte_, but also amongst that of Yomut, and that if any of
them should so much as dare to touch a hair of our heads, he would know
how to obtain satisfaction for such an outrage. "You must remain with us
two weeks longer, at least," continued our host, "until some caravan
happens to go to Khiva. Take now your rest, visit the other tents; a
Turkoman never allows a dervish to leave his tent with an empty hand,
and it will do you no harm to fill your bread-sacks well, for it is a
long journey from here to Khiva and Bokhara."

We gladly followed his advice. During the first day I went visiting at
several of the tents, in the company of Khandjan, or his brother and
friends of the family. Later on I went with Hadji Bilal, bestowing
blessings, or visiting the sick in company of Hadji Salih, who dabbled
considerably in the art of healing. Whilst he gave the medicine, I
bestowed the blessing on the patient, and was rewarded for it by the
gift of a small piece of cloth, dried fish and other trifles. Whether it
was owing to my successful cures or to the curiosity of the people to
see the hadji from Roum, I do not know, but certain it is that patients
came flocking to me, and I treated them by either bestowing my blessing
upon them, or breathing upon them, or writing talismans for them. Here
and there sceptical people thought me a political emissary and strongly
doubted my dervishship, but I paid very little attention to them.

The number of my acquaintances was daily increasing, the most prominent
people being amongst them. The friendship of Kizil Akhond, whose real
name was Mollah Murad, proved to be of particularly great service to me.
The recommendations of this distinguished scholar, who was universally
respected, opened the way everywhere. He had in his possession a book
which he got, while studying in Bokhara, treating of Mohammedan
theology, written in Ottoman-Turkish, which he found some difficulty in
understanding; and I had a chance of obliging him by furnishing the
proper key to it. He was very much pleased with my conversation, and
spoke everywhere in the highest terms of me, especially praising me for
my great knowledge of the books of Islam. I managed to secure the kind
feelings of Satligh Akhond, another highly respected priest. When I
first met him he gave thanks to Providence, in a special prayer, for
having permitted him to behold, in my person, a Mussulman from Roum, the
true source of the faith; and upon people commenting in his presence on
the whiteness of my complexion, he insisted that this was the real
_nur-ul-Islam_, the light of Islam shining from my face, and was by the
blessing of God the birthright of the Western faithful only. Nor did I
fail to cultivate the friendship of Mollah Durdis, who was invested with
the rank of a chief judge (Kazi Kelan), for I soon found out that the
ulemas were the only class who could exercise any influence over this
savage people. As a sort of scholar, I, too, shared in the general
esteem, and may cite, in point, the following instance. There were
ancient Grecian ruins on the territory of Gomushtepe, probably of a fort
built by Alexander the Great, which gave a name to the settlement. These
ruins contain the only stone walls to be met with in the whole
neighbourhood. It was considered proper, Gomushtepe being the principal
settlement of the Yomuts, to raise there a temple to God, built of
stone, particularly as the materials necessary for the same were
furnished in abundance at the ruins near by. I was selected by Kizil
Akhond, in my capacity of the most learned and experienced dervish, to
determine the place and the proper position, in the direction of Mecca
(Kibla), of the altar (_mihrab_), a task which I very readily
accomplished.

In the company of Kizil Akhond, I made an excursion, occupying four
days, into the territory of one of the tribes of the Yomuts, living to
the east, and the Goklen Turkomans. On returning we were told that Hadji
Kari Mesud, one of my companions, living in a tent used as a mosque, had
been robbed. The stolen articles were searched for everywhere, but could
not be found. Finally the Sheikh or Imam caused it to be publicly
announced that he would pronounce a curse against the thief, unless the
stolen property were restored to its rightful owner within a given time.
The threat had its effect, for scarcely twenty-four hours had passed
when the thief made his appearance, penitent and humble, bringing with
him not only the stolen property, but some presents of expiation
besides. About the same time we received some good news in regard to a
caravan which was to go to Khiva. The Khan of Khiva, whom the physicians
had ordered to drink buffalo milk for his health, had sent his
_kervanbashi_ (chief of the caravans) to Astrabad to buy two buffaloes,
there being no such animals in his dominions. The kervanbashi had
already passed through Gomushtepe, and we were to join his caravan and
start at once with him upon his return. A better guide we could not
desire, for there was not a man more familiar with the desert than he.

I thought it very strange that many of our party were urging our
departure, although these poor people were entertained in the most
hospitable manner. "It is impossible for us," they replied to my
queries, "to witness any longer the cruelties perpetrated against these
poor Persian slaves. It is true they are heretics and that we have to
bear much ill-treatment in passing through their country, but what these
poor people must suffer exceeds all bounds." The reader may imagine what
the fate of these Persian slaves under their Turkoman masters must have
been, if even my Tartar companions, who, it is true, know of no slave
trade in their own country, had their compassion roused at the spectacle
of their sufferings. Usually these poor people are forcibly torn, during
the night, from the bosom of their families, and often dragged here
covered with wounds. The poor man, once a prisoner, has his clothes
taken away, and receives instead a few scanty rags barely sufficient to
cover his nakedness, and heavy chains are placed upon his limbs, galling
his ankles and heels, and causing him cruel pain at every step he takes.
In this way he continues for weeks to drag out a miserable existence on
coarse food, and to prevent him from running away during the night, an
iron collar (_karabogra_) is placed around his neck by which he is
chained to a stake, the clanking of his chains betraying his slightest
movement. He continues in this sad plight until he is either ransomed by
his relations or sent to Khiva or Bokhara to be sold.

There is hardly a Turkoman of the better classes near whose tent the
clanking of the chains of a couple of slaves is not heard. Khandjan had
also two slaves, youths from eighteen to twenty years old, and my heart
ached whenever I saw them dragging their heavy chains after them. I had
the additional mortification of being compelled to insult and swear at
them in public, as the slightest sympathy shown to them would have
roused suspicion in my host, particularly as they addressed me oftener
than the others, owing to my knowledge of their language. The younger of
our two domestic slaves, a fine youth from Iran, with black curls,
begged of me to write his parents a letter, beseeching them, for the
love of God, to sell their house and sheep, and ransom him. I did as he
requested. Upon one occasion I thought I could pass him, unobserved, a
cup of tea, but as he was about to take it from my hands some one
entered the tent. I did not, however, lose countenance for one minute; I
pretended to have only teased him, and the poor fellow, instead of
getting a cup of tea, had to put up with a few gentle blows from me, to
keep up my false pretence. Not a night passed during my stay in
Gomushtepe without firing being heard from the sea announcing the
arrival of a slaver.

The inhabitants of Gomushtepe were untiring in the arrangement of feasts
for devotional purposes, and on such occasions the entire hadji-company
had to be present. I once wished to excuse myself, but was ushered out
of my tent by a violent poke in the ribs from my would-be host, it being
a rule of Turkoman etiquette that "the harder the thrusts, the more
cordial the invitation." Upon these festive occasions it is the custom
to spread in front of the host's tent a few pieces of cloth, or if the
thing is done in great style, carpets, upon which the invited guests
seat themselves in groups of six, each group forming a circle. Each of
these groups gets a large wooden platter, the contents of which vary in
quantity according to the ages and number of the guests, and every one
helps himself with his hands, thrusting them into the plate until they
reach its bottom. As to the quality of the dishes, the less said about
them the better; I will only mention, in parenthesis, that horse's and
camel's meat is the order of the day.

Whilst we were the guests of Khandjan he celebrated by a feast the
betrothal of his son, a boy of twelve years, with a girl of ten; and, of
course, we had to be present at this feast. Originally the betrothal was
to have taken place in the following autumn, but he took advantage of
our presence to get our blessing for the young couple. A rather
remarkable man was the Karaktchi, by whom also an entertainment was
arranged in honour of our party. This man, all by himself and being on
foot, took three Persians prisoners, and drove them a distance of eight
miles into slavery. He gave us, as our share, a tenth part of the
plunder, being the tithe belonging to the priests and amounting to two
krans for each of us; and when we sang, blessing him, the fatiha, the
man was beside himself with joy.

After we had passed three weeks in Gomushtepe we began our preparations
for the onward journey, Khandjan promising to assist us in every way. We
gave up the idea of purchasing camels owing to the expense it involved,
and made up our minds to hire, instead, one camel for every two persons,
which would carry at the same time the water and the flour of those two.
The latter plan, however, would have been attended with considerable
difficulty but for the assistance we got from Ilias Beg, who happened to
be the very man we wanted for our purposes. This man differed from the
others in being less religiously inclined, and being wanting in respect
towards our hadjiship, but he observed all the more scrupulously the
laws of hospitality. He was a Turkoman from Khiva, and belonged to the
tribe of Yomut. Once in every year he used to cross the desert and visit
this neighbourhood on business, and whilst on these visits enjoyed
during his stay in Gomushtepe the protection of Khandjan, without which
he would have been no more safe than any other stranger. He generally
came in the autumn and left again in spring with from twenty to thirty
camels laden partly with goods of his own, and partly with goods
belonging to others. This season he was anxious to take with him a
greater number of camels, not caring even if they were without a load,
and the conveyance of our party came to him in the nick of time.
Khandjan solemnly adjured him to take good care of us. "Thou shalt
answer for their safety with thy life, Ilias!" he said, and the latter,
fixing his eyes upon the ground, as the Nomads always do when they seem
to be in earnest, merely answered: "Thou knowest me." We settled with
Ilias to pay him two gold pieces for the hire of every camel we were to
use, but that he should convey our water and flour free of charge. The
money I had sewn into various parts of my ragged garments, added to what
I had received in money for my blessings and cures, would have permitted
me to hire a camel by myself, but Hadji Bilal persuaded me not to do so.
He represented to me that an appearance of misery, inviting pity, was
the best protection against the Nomads, whose predatory instincts are
roused at the slightest indication of ease or comfort about a person. He
mentioned the names of several of our companions who were well provided
with money, but who, for safety's sake, are compelled to be clad in rags
and to walk on foot. Yielding to his representations, I, too, hired a
camel in common with another man; with this proviso, however, that I
should be allowed to make use of a _kedsheve_ (two baskets, one hanging
on each side of the camel), because of the difficulty I should
experience in sitting, with my lame foot cramped up, in the company of
another man, for forty long stations. Ilias was not inclined to grant my
request, this kedsheve being in the desert an additional burden to the
camel, but he finally yielded to the persuasions of Khandjan. It was a
source of additional satisfaction to me that I succeeded in securing
Hadji Bilal for my neighbour, or rather counterpoise, for he became
every day more indispensable to me.

When the bargain was concluded we paid Ilias his hire in advance,
according to custom. Hadji Bilal then said a fatiha, and Ilias having
smoothed the few thin hairs representing his beard, and answered with an
affirmative "Amen," we felt quite easy about the arrangement. We urged
him to hasten his departure, but he would make no promises, the time of
his starting depending upon that of the kervanbashi of the Khan of
Khiva, who was to go in front of the caravan with his buffaloes.

In _Etrek_, a place on the river of the same name and the first station
on our road, we were to enjoy the hospitality of _Kulkhan_, the
_Karaktchilar piri viz_ (gray-beard of the robbers), who just then
happened to be in Gomushtepe, and to whose special grace we were
commended by Khandjan. This old rascal had a morose and repulsive look
about him. When he learned that I should be his guest in Etrek he seemed
to study my features, and exchanging whispers with Khandjan appeared not
to agree with the others. I very soon found out the reason of his
distrust. In his youth he had travelled all over Russia, had passed
considerable time in Tiflis, and had become tolerably familiar with
European life. He told them he had seen men of various nations, the
Osmanlis excepted, that the latter, too, are said to be kinsmen of the
Turkomans and to resemble them, but that to his surprise there was
nothing in my features to indicate the remotest relationship with
either. Hadji Bilal remarked to him, in reply, that he was badly
informed, as he himself had been living for a long time in Roum, and had
never observed the resemblance spoken of by him. Kulkhan was somewhat
pacified by this explanation, and, informing us that he would leave for
Etrek the day after to-morrow, he told us to hold ourselves in readiness
for the journey; for, added he, although Etrek was only twelve miles off
we could not get there without him, and he was only waiting for the
return of his son Kolman from the _alaman_ (a predatory venture). He
invited us, at the same time, to walk to the lower shore of the Gorghen
about noon, when his son would return and gladden us with a rare
spectacle. Not having anything to do I was easily persuaded to go and
mix with the crowd already assembled there, eagerly waiting for the
arrival of their friends. Before long eight Turkoman horsemen were seen
advancing in a furious gallop toward the opposite shore, bringing with
them about ten spare horses. Eager eyes, full of mute admiration,
followed every movement of the young horsemen, who in a second had
crossed swimming the Gorghen, reached our shore, dismounted, and were
now extending with indescribable gravity their hands to their friends
and relations. However much I despised their occupation I could not help
feasting my eyes on the manly forms of these young fellows, who in their
short riding costumes, their long fair hair falling in curls on their
shoulders, and with defiant looks, were the objects of general
admiration. At the sight even morose Kulkhan cheered up a little, and
after introducing his son, who received Hadji Bilal's blessing, we
parted in order to attend to the final preparations for our journey.



XIX.

FROM GOMUSHTEPE TO THE BORDER OF THE DESERT.


We left Gomushtepe on the following day at noon. We were accompanied by
Khandjan and our other friends and acquaintances. They remained with us
for an hour, and no matter how often I begged of Khandjan to turn back,
I could not induce him to do so. He insisted upon rigorously observing
the laws of Turkoman hospitality, lest he might give me cause for
complaining of him. It was truly with a heavy heart that I exchanged
with him a last farewell embrace, for I had learned to love him as one
of the most noble-minded men, who, unselfishly and without the least
self-interest, had for a considerable time most hospitably entertained
myself and five others. I felt sorry at not being able to make some
suitable return for so much kindness, but what I regretted most was my
having been compelled to practise deception upon this trustiest of
friends by my disguise and compulsory concealments.

We proceeded in a north-eastern direction through an endless plain. Our
small caravan, consisting of Ilias's camels and six horses, moved on in
close order, we having been informed by Kulkhan that there were such
karaktchis in this part of the country who did not acknowledge his
authority, and would feel no hesitation at attacking himself, if they
thought themselves the stronger party. Ilias gave me as far as Etrek the
use of a horse he had got from Kulkhan in order to save me the
discomfort of riding on a camel. But whenever we came across a puddle I
had to share my saddle with one of our companions, on foot, and he would
clutch at my clothes with such violence, that he nearly pulled me from
my seat. On one occasion we had to pass through a marsh covered with
rushes, which served as a cover for an immense herd of wild hogs or
boars. Kulkhan and Ilias had ridden in advance in order to discover some
roundabout path, by means of which the caravan might steer clear of
these wild animals. As I was cautiously feeling my way with a companion
in the saddle, my horse gave a sudden start; and before I well knew what
had happened, we were both of us sprawling on the ground. Midst roars of
laughter coming from my companions, I heard something like a cross
between a squeal and a howl, and turning to discover the place whence
these sounds issued, I saw before me two young wild pigs over which I
had stumbled. Their mother had frightened my horse, and hearing the
squeal of her litter she drew quite near us in a rage, showing her
tusks; and she would have made a rush upon us if Shirdjan, the brother
of Ilias, had not perceived our perilous position and placed himself
with his lance raised high between us and the infuriated animal. The
young pigs had, meanwhile, scrambled off, and their mother turned tail
and went back to her lair. Kulkhan's son caught the runaway horse and
brought it back to me with the remark that I was a lucky man to have
escaped being killed by a wild hog, for he who receives his death from
such an animal enters the next world in a state of uncleanness, no
matter how pious a life he had led, and must suffer the fires of hell
for five hundred years before he can be purified again, and even then
not completely.

We passed the first night in a group of tents at a cousin's of Kulkhan.
They knew already of our coming, and my hungry hadji friends interpreted
the smoke rising above the tents, which we saw upon drawing near, as a
sign of coming good cheer. The other hadjis and myself were quartered in
the narrow tent of Allah Nazr. This aged Turkoman, poor and needy as he
was, grew wild with joy at Heaven sending him guests to entertain. A
goat was all he possessed, but he killed it to do honour to his guests.
The following day he succeeded in getting some bread for us, a thing
which had not been in his house for weeks; and upon seeing us
surrounding the plate filled with meat and falling to with our
tremendous appetites, our host and his aged helpmate, who had seated
themselves opposite to us, shed tears of joy, in the literal sense of
the word. Allah Nazr would not retain for himself any part of the animal
thus offered up to us; its horns and hoofs, which if burnt to powder are
used with effect on the galled sores of camels, he gave to Ilias; for me
he destined the skin to serve as a vessel for water, having first rubbed
it well with salt, and then carefully dried it in the sun.

Next day we resumed our march. At this station I took for the first time
possession of my basket, having sacks of flour placed as a counterpoise
in the other basket; for my friend Hadji Bilal wished to deny himself
this luxury on that day. We had been going onward for scarcely two hours
when we lost sight of green fields and came upon a melancholy soil
emitting the pungent smell of salt. We were in the desert. The nearer we
approached the mountain ridge called Kara Sengher (black wall) the
softer did the soil get under our feet, and it became quite a bog when
we came quite near the mountain. The camels, with their legs stretched
apart, had every trouble to keep from sliding, and I was threatened
every minute with being upset and left on the ground, basket and all. I
deemed it wiser to dismount of my own accord, and after a dreadful
scramble of one hour and a half succeeded in climbing the Kara Sengher,
from whence we shortly afterwards reached Kulkhan's _ova_ (tent).

When we arrived there I was rather startled at being immediately
conducted by Kulkhan into his own tent, and being told by him with great
emphasis that I should not stir out of it until I was called. A few
minutes later I heard him without, scolding his wife and reproaching her
with never being able to find the chains when they were needed, and
ordering her to find them for him immediately. Upon hearing this I began
to suspect that something was wrong. Several times he entered the tent
looking about him with gloomy looks, but never addressing a syllable to
me. My suspicions increased, and all at once it struck me as strange
that Hadji Bilal, who but rarely left me to myself, had not been near me
for a considerable time. The most dreadful misgivings overwhelmed me;
that fatal clanking of the chains outside the tent still continued. At
last I saw that my fears were unfounded, for the chains being
forthcoming I found that they were intended for the poor Persian slave
who had been dragged with us to this place. Kulkhan afterwards prepared
tea, and when we had partaken of it he beckoned to me to follow him to a
new tent, adjoining his, especially erected for my use. This was to
have been a surprise, and hence came the mysterious manner which had
given me such a scare.

I must confess that this was neither the first nor the last time that
the grim look and suspicious doings of the Turkomans, who afterwards
turned out to be my best friends, filled my mind with all kind of
horror. I never felt quite safe as to my future, and the only
consolation left to me was my lameness, which made me quite valueless in
the eyes of the slave-dealers. Of course, as the time went on, I began
to be accustomed to this perpetual anxiety, and in spite of the constant
danger in which I found myself, I regained my good humour, and my wit
and jokes not only exhilarated my hadji fellows, but even the surliest
son of the desert, and the usual remark of the Turkomans was, "That lame
hadji of Roum (Turkey) is a jolly fellow; he would make a capital
merry-maker."



XX.

IN THE DESERT.



The road we traversed showed no traces of the feet of either men or
camels, and taking for our guides the sun during the day, and the polar
star during the night, we kept our course straight to the north. The
Turkomans call the polar star on account of its immobility Temir Kazik
(iron peg). The camels forming a long line and tied together were led by
men on foot. In this way we jogged along in the sandy soil without any
interruption until late after sunset. The sandy soil gradually ceased
and we felt indeed the solid and smooth ground under our feet. The tramp
of the camels sounded at a distance as if they beat time. The day was
nearly dawning when we stopped, but we had altogether gone but
twenty-four miles; the camels not being allowed to exert themselves in
the beginning, and our progress having been delayed, besides, by the
slowness of the buffaloes, the most distinguished members of our
travelling party, who with their huge bodies were unable to keep pace
with the camels. Our rest lasted from dawn till eight o'clock in the
morning, and whilst the camels were feeding on thistles and brambles of
the desert, we had time to look after our breakfast. We might well call
our breakfast an excellent one, for we had a sufficient quantity of
water wherewith to wash down our unleavened bread. As we were camping
near each other I observed that the kervanbashi, whilst talking with
Ilias and the chiefs of the hadji, had been looking at me pointedly
several times. I could easily guess the tenor of their conversation, but
pretending not to be in the least concerned, I kept on turning the
leaves of the Koran with great devotion for a while; and then, closing
the book, I rose and directed my steps towards the little company as if
to join them. As I was approaching, both the good Ilias and Hadji Salih
hastened to meet me half-way, and calling me aside informed me that the
kervanbashi suspected me and was determined not to take me with him to
Khiva. He was especially afraid of the wrath of the Khan, for he had
brought with him, some years ago, a Frengi envoy to Khiva, who had made
an exact drawing of the entire road, not omitting, owing to his infernal
skill, a single well or hill. The Khan burning with rage at this, had
immediately executed two of the men who had given the traveller
information, and spared the life of the kervanbashi only because of some
very influential protection the latter had succeeded in enlisting in his
favour. "After a good deal of coaxing," my men continued, "we succeeded
in prevailing upon him to take thee with him, on condition that thou
shalt allow thyself to be searched, in the first place, in order to see
if thou dost not carry any drawings or wood pens (lead pencils) with
thee such as the Frengis usually have about them; and in the second
place, that thou shalt promise not to make any secret memoranda of the
roads and mountains; if thou dost not agree to this he will leave thee
behind him in the middle of the desert." I listened to their speech with
the utmost patience, but as soon as they were done I assumed the
appearance of one angrily excited, and turning to Hadji Salih I said in
a voice, loud enough to reach the ears of the kervanbashi: "Hadji, thou
sawest me in Teheran and knowest who I am. Tell Amandurdi that it ill
becometh an honest man like him to listen to the words of a drunken
_binamaz_ (a man who does not say his prayers) like this Afghan. It is
not permitted to trifle with religion, and if he calls me once more
Frengi infidel I shall show him in Khiva what manner of man I am." I
spoke the last words in such a loud key as to be heard by every one in
the caravan, and my dervish companions became so enraged that, if I had
not kept them back, they would have fallen on the spot upon the sottish
opium-eating Afghan who had been trying to excite the kervanbashi's
suspicions against me. Amandurdi more than any other was startled by
this scene, and I heard him replying to every person who came near him
to inquire about the occurrence, "God knows!" He was by no means a bad
man; on the contrary, he was of a kind disposition and very clever; but
like all thoroughbred Orientals he was attracted by anything that looked
mysterious, and it was this tendency that made him suppose me to be a
disguised foreigner, although he never failed to apply to me in
questions of religion, having heard in Gomushtepe of my reputation as a
scholar. I had succeeded this time in warding off the impending danger,
but I felt that the distrust of me was growing apace, and that I should
find it exceedingly difficult to make the slightest memoranda even of my
travels. I could not even directly inquire after the names of the
several stations, and only in a roundabout way, by hook and crook,
could I gain some information about one thing or other and set it down
afterwards, with great secrecy in my notes. I must recall to the mind of
my readers, that the Afghan who set up his mind to cause my ruin, was a
runaway from Kandahar at the time when Sir Henry Rawlinson was in
command of that place. Mir Mohammed, for this was his name, had an
unspeakable hatred against every European, and particularly against the
English; and he, supposing me to belong to that nation, was
indefatigable in his efforts to penetrate my disguise and to denounce me
as a spy, who would speedily be followed by an invading army.

After a short rest we continued our journey, but I observed that after
we had been marching for about two hours, the caravan began to slacken
pace. A couple of Turkomans had dismounted from their camels and seemed
to be carefully investigating right and left the low mounds, a great
number of which could be seen everywhere around us. I was informed that
Eid Mehemmed, one of our fellow-travellers, was trying to discover the
grave of a brother of his, who had fallen hereabouts, last year, in an
attack made upon him, after having heroically defended himself. Eid
Mehemmed had brought a coffin with him in order to take the remains to
Khiva. It might have been two o'clock in the afternoon when the grave
was found and the exhumation begun. After the customary prayers and the
recital of stray verses from the Koran, ceremonies in which I too had to
take part in the most devotional manner, the half-decayed dead body was
wrapped in rags and placed in the coffin. When the funeral ceremonies
were over Eid Mehemmed baked bread on that place and distributed it
among us. We started again, going always north. We had to make up for
lost time, and the order was given by the kervanbashi to march all
night. The weather was fine and, cramped up in my basket, I gazed with
intense delight at the starry firmament, the like of which, for
transcendental beauty, can be seen nowhere but in the desert. But sleep
soon asserted its rights. I had not been asleep an hour when I was
roused by several people shouting at me: "Hadji, look at thy _kiblenuma_
(compass), we seem to have lost our way." I immediately produced my
flint and steel apparatus, and striking sparks with it lit the tinder,
by the smouldering fire of which I perceived that we were going east
instead of north. The kervanbashi was frightened, thinking we had come
near the dangerous marshes, and determined not to move until daybreak.
Fortunately we had left the right track only half an hour before when
the sky was clouded. In spite of the delay we reached in time the
station we were bound for, and turned our tired animals loose to feed
upon thistles and similar pasture.

On the 15th of May our road lay through a wild country, intersected, in
every direction, by ravines. The poor camels had a great deal to suffer.
They are attached to each other in such a manner that one end of the
rope is tied to the tail of the camel in front, and the other end is
fastened at the nose, through a hole perforated for that purpose, of the
camel following it. Now if the poor beast stops from any cause, but for
a minute, those before him are tugging away at his nose, in such an
unmerciful way, that I have often seen the rope broken. To relieve the
poor animals we dismounted several times during our four hours' trudging
through the deep sand.

There were three different roads by which the desert might be crossed,
but we were as yet kept in ignorance as to which of these the
kervanbashi would choose. Owing to the caravan's being liable to be
pounced upon by marauders at any minute, it is quite necessary to
keep the real route a secret. But at the present stage of our journey it
was easy to foretell that we should take the middle road, for our water
was giving out; and the tank of water of which we stood in great need
lay along that route. This night we were favoured by good fortune on our
march, the rope keeping the camels together having broken but twice.
When such a thing happens a couple of men are sent after the animals to
bring them back, the caravan continuing their march. One of the caravan,
however, is selected to keep up a continual conversation with the men
sent out, while they are receding, to prevent their missing their way in
the dark night. The melancholy sound of this man's voice is their only
guide in the pitchlike darkness, and woe to the poor fellows if a
contrary wind hinders them from hearing it. On the 16th of May we
perceived in a north-eastern direction the mountain-chain of _Karendag_,
and reached it on the afternoon of the same day. We had been told in
Etrek that we might look forward to meeting friendly Yomut-Turkomans at
this place, but nevertheless there prevailed a general anxiety on that
subject, the fear of the possibility of being attacked by some hostile
bands being quite as great as the expectation of meeting the former. We
dispatched a brave Turkoman to reconnoitre the neighbourhood. Before
long we caught sight of solitary tents, and, our apprehensions being
dispelled, we asked ourselves what tribe we were to meet. After all they
were Yomuts, and we passed the whole day with them.

[Illustration: A LIGHT FOR THE COMPASS.]

I was agreeably surprised to find near the Karendag Mountains some old
ruins; the fable attaches to them that they are the ruins of Kaaba, God
having from His special love for the Turkomans placed the Kaaba here
first, but that Goklen, a lame blue devil, pulled it down, whereupon God
carried the Kaaba to Mecca. And this was the reason why the Turkomans
lived in constant enmity with and war against the Goklens, who have
descended from Goklen.

The Nomads sojourning in the environs came flocking to see the caravan
and to engage in trade with some of its members. In the evening, we
being ready to start, one of the buffalo cows presented the caravan with
a healthy calf, to the kervanbashi's intense satisfaction. On the road
it occurred to him that the calf was too feeble to follow us on foot,
and that he must find a place for it on the back of one of the camels.
Myself and Hadji Bilal being the only ones occupying a kedsheve he
naturally thought of us, and asked that one of us should give up our
place to the newborn animal. Hadji Bilal resigned his basket with the
utmost readiness, alleging that he did so out of kind feelings for me,
who could not with my lame foot find accommodation everywhere. But no
sooner did my counterpoise occupy the hadji's place than I discovered
the real cause of his great complaisance--the calf was exhaling a
pestiferous smell. It was passable at nights, interfering but
occasionally with my slumbers, but during the day, when the sun shone
out hot, I could hardly bear my sweet-smelling neighbour. Fortunately
for me this agony did not last long, the calf departing this life three
days afterwards.

From the spot where we started on the 18th of May, it was calculated
that the Great Balkan was distant two days' march and Khiva a march of
twelve days. Our guides hoped we should find rain water on the flat
lands. We had last filled our canteens from the miry water of the two
miserable water-tanks of Karendag, and such as it was, it had become,
through being shaken up on the camels' backs, a liquid mass of mud,
loathsome both to the smell and taste. We had, nevertheless, to be
very economical in the use of it, for there was no prospect of obtaining
any water before passing the Great Balkan. Our marching from this time
onwards became more regular. We usually made three stoppages daily, of
one hour and a half, and two hours' duration. The first was before
daybreak, when we would bake one day's ration of bread; the second at
noon, to afford some rest to both animals and men; and the third before
sunset, in order to eat our modest supper, consisting of a little bread
and of a few drops of water carefully doled out. The soil of the country
through which we passed was a hard-baked clay producing scantily and at
intervals a few blades of sickly grass. The blazing sun marked the whole
surface with a thousand burning cracks. It is frightfully wearisome for
the traveller to see before him everlastingly the boundless plain from
which every vestige of life is banished, so much so that even the
reaching of a new station is quite a relief, as it affords some rest
from the rocking motion of the camel.

[Illustration: THE KARENDAG HILLS.]

On the following day, about noon, the Little Balkan Mountains loomed up
before us in the hazy distance. The Turkomans spoke to me in the most
laudatory strain of the extent and size of this mountain chain as well
as of its beauty and wealth in minerals. The kervanbashi, otherwise
always wakeful, feeling oppressed by sleep as the evening set in, left
the caravan under the care of the leader of the camels, who led us into
such danger that we were all near losing our lives. There are at the
foot of the Balkan many salt marshes, covered with a thick white
surface, formed by deposits of salt, which it is difficult to
distinguish from the solid ground. Into one of these the substitute of
the kervanbashi had taken us, and we had already advanced so far that
the animals, owing to the shakiness of the ground under their feet,
refused to go on in spite of all urging. We quickly jumped off our
animals, and my fright may be imagined when upon touching ground I had a
rocking sensation as if seated on a swing, the ground apparently giving
way under my feet. The panic became general. Finally the kervanbashi
called out that every one should remain where he was until sunrise, when
we should be able to extricate ourselves from our perilous position. For
three mortal hours we dared not stir and had to remain motionless in our
places, having besides to suffer from the pungent soda smell, making our
heads dizzy. At length the gray streak in the east assumed the rosy
tints of dawn for which our hearts had been longing. With considerable
trouble and exertion the caravan succeeding in getting out of this miry
pitfall and in retracing their steps to the solid track. Had we advanced
but a little farther into the salt marshes, part of the caravan, if not
the whole, would have been doomed to certain destruction.

On the 20th of May we reached the _Little Balkan_, which stretches from
the south-east to the north-west. We marched on along its foot on that
day and the whole day following. The kervanbashi declared that we had
but just now reached the veritable desert. We soon came to the ancient
bed of the Oxus, and crossing it we entered on the opposite side a high
plateau. By and by the Balkan mountain chain vanished in the blue
distance, and the desert in all its awful grandeur spread before us. Man
is overwhelmed here by the idea of the infinite. The impression produced
by the absence of all sounds, by the very change in the colour and
appearance of the sun, is indescribable. Up to this time I always
thought that the charm of the desert existed chiefly in the heated
imagination of enthusiastic travellers, but I lived to be undeceived in
this my supposition.

We camped near _Yeti Siri_ on the 22nd of May. This place owes its name
to seven wells which stood there in ancient times, and most of which are
now dry. In one or two of them some little water may be found even now,
but it is undrinkable owing to its salty taste and nasty smell. The
kervanbashi comforted us with the hope of finding rain-water towards
evening, but at this moment I was not disposed to exchange the remaining
little water (abundantly mixed as it was with mud) which was left in my
canteen for the ill-smelling contents of the wells. The animals were
watered, and several of the men eagerly competed with them in drinking
from this water. After resting a little we resumed our march and, on our
way, happened to observe, on a sand mound, raised above the smaller
heaps of sand, two empty kedsheves. In the opinion of my
fellow-travellers these wooden baskets had belonged to some persons who
had died on this spot; and the Turkomans hold in veneration every object
once possessed by man. Strange anomaly! to look upon selling men into
slavery and carrying desolation into a country as commendable acts, and
to couple with such views a tender feeling of piety for a wooden
basket--because, forsooth, a man had once sat in it.

We went towards evening with the kervanbashi and a couple of Turkomans,
on foot, to look for the hoped-for rain-water. We were all well armed,
and went in search of water in different directions. I followed the
kervanbashi--with whom I had been on the best terms since the last
collision with him. Suddenly he caught sight of footprints in the sand
and, lighting our tinder, we followed them up by its feeble light, to
the mouth of a cavern. We entered after a slight hesitation, and beheld
there, to our utmost horror, a man in perfectly savage condition, with
long, unkempt hair and beard, and enormous finger nails, wrapped in
chamois skins. At our sight he, too, started, and seizing his lance made
a rush at us. I retreated as quickly as I could, but my companion
remained perfectly calm, and dropping the arm he had raised and saying
in a low voice, "Aman bol!" (Peace be with thee!), he left the dreadful
place. Not daring to ask too many questions, I learned from the
kervanbashi, on returning, that the man we saw was "Kanli dir" (a man
stained with blood). I was afterwards told that this unhappy being had
fled from righteous revenge for bloodshed, and had been wandering for
years, summer and winter, in the wilderness.

Our companions, like ourselves, returned with empty hands from their
search for water, of which not the slightest indication could be found.
It was an appalling thought that the few drops of muddy dregs I still
possessed would be used up to-day. That evening I ate a few pieces of
bread soaked in boiling water, for I had heard that the water lost its
bitter taste by boiling. I determined patiently to bear everything, for
in comparison to many of my companions I had every reason to be
satisfied with my condition, inasmuch as I was in good health and they
were suffering a great deal from the consequences of their having drunk
from the brackish water. Some of the Turkomans were suspected of having
secreted a quantity of drinkable water. But to rely upon being supplied,
in the desert, with water belonging to another person, would be the
height of madness; and indeed any one wishing to borrow or to beg water
in the desert is looked upon as demented. I had lost my appetite and
could not swallow even a few bits of bread. I dropped on the ground,
exhausted and weak, and pitied my hard fate, when all at once I saw
every one rising and flocking around the kervanbashi, and some persons
beckoning to me to join them with my canteen. The word "water" was
enough to infuse new life into me; I jumped up from the ground I had
been lying on, and on reaching the crowd I saw the kervanbashi dealing
out about two glasses of clear sweet water to every member of the
caravan. This brave Turkoman afterwards told us that for years he had
been in the habit of storing away in secret places large quantities of
water, to distribute it in times of great need, when every one is
benefited by it. This is a great _sevab_ (pious act), for a Turkoman
proverb says: "One drop of water given to the thirsting in the desert
will wash away the sins of a hundred years."

It is just as hard to determine the greatness of such a good action as
it is to describe the enjoyment afforded by one swallow of sweet water.
My craving for food was gone, I did not feel any more hunger, and
thought I could bear being without water for three days. As far as
drinking was concerned I was all right again, but it had all gone wrong
with my bread. From want of appetite and in a fit of indolence I thought
that instead of using wood for fuel, which it took some time to get as
it was at some distance, I would use camel's dung--the regular fuel of
the desert--but of this too I had gathered rather less than was needed.
I placed the dough into the hot ashes, but there was not heat enough to
bake it into bread, even if it had been left there for a week. I quickly
ran off to gather some wood, but it was quite dark when I returned. I
immediately set to kindling a little fire, but no sooner was it
perceived by the kervanbashi, than he called out to ask "If I wished to
betray by the smoke our caravans to the enemy?" I had to put out the
fire at once, and take with me the unleavened bread half done.

On the 23rd of May the rays of the sun beat down upon our heads with a
scorching heat. The sand to the depth of a foot became so hot, that even
the most hardened Asiatic who had never worn either shoe or boot on his
feet, was compelled to fasten around them a piece of leather, sandal
fashion. It was only ten years later, when a Russian army, led by
Colonel Markusoff had crossed this part of the desert, that I learnt
that the heat in the month of May reached the height of fifty-four
degrees Réaumur (about 152 degrees Fahrenheit) in the sun! No wonder
that the effect of the refreshing beverage of yesterday was soon gone,
and that I began to be tantalized anew by thirst. At noon we were
informed by the kervanbashi that we were not far from Kahriman Ata, a
place of resort for pilgrimages. In duty bound we had to dismount and
walk for a quarter of an hour until we reached the saint's grave, where
we performed our devotions. My distress may be easily imagined at being
compelled, worn out with the heat and half dead with thirst, to join the
band of pilgrims. The tombs rose on an eminence; they crowded around it
and yelled out with dry throats, _telkins_ and citations from the Koran.
Oh cruel saint, I thought within myself, couldst thou not have managed
to get thyself buried in some other place, in order to save me the
tortures of this pilgrimage! Choking and out of breath I sank down on
the grave, which was about thirty feet long, and covered with rams'
horns, the ram's horn being looked upon in Central Asia as a symbol of
supremacy. The kervanbashi told us that the saint resting in his grave
had been a giant, as tall as the grave was long, and that ever so long
ago he had defended the wells hereabouts against evil spirits who had
threatened to block them up with stones. The innumerable smaller mounds,
surrounding the saint's grave, marked the places where poor travellers,
who had lost their lives in different places of the desert either by
the hands of robbers or by elemental visitations, were sleeping their
eternal sleep. Hearing of the wells placed under the patronage of the
saint, my heart was gladdened with a new hope, for I thought we should
find drinkable water in the neighbourhood. I hastened to be amongst the
first to arrive at the designated spot. I caught sight of a brownish
puddle-like spring, and helped myself to its water by taking some into
the hollow of my hand. It was as cold as ice, but when I brought it near
my lips I had to leave it untasted, it was so brackish, bitter, and
ill-smelling. My depression became extreme; for the first time I began
to be seriously alarmed about my future.

[Illustration: A WELL IN THE DESERT.]

Luckily for us a heavy rain storm came up during the night, the rain
descending in large drops, and towards morning we came to the extremest
edge of the sand. It took us three days to pass through it. We were sure
of finding on to-day's road in the loamy ground an abundance of
rain-water. The kervanbashi, judging by the numerous footprints of
gazelles and wild asses, anticipated with certainty the accomplishment
of our hope, but, volunteering no opinion of his own, only pressed
forward, and very soon discovered, with his lynx eyes, at a great
distance, a pool of rain-water. Su! Su! (water! water!) was on
everybody's lips when the kervanbashi had communicated his discovery. We
arrived there towards noon, and met on our way, besides the large pool
we had seen at a distance, numerous pits filled with the sweetest
rain-water. I was the first to run up to them, not to drink, but to fill
my goatskin and other vessels with the precious fluid before it became
muddy and murky with being stirred up. A quarter of an hour later
everybody sat at his breakfast with a feeling of infinite delight.

From this station to Khiva we could without interruption fill our skins
with sweet water, and our further progress became, comparatively
speaking, contrasted with our former experiences, a pleasure trip. In
the evening we reached a place where everything pointed to the mastery
of a genuine spring, and camped amidst small lakes set in frames of
verdant meadows. My thoughts involuntarily reverted to my sorrowful
plight of yesterday, and it was with some difficulty I could persuade
myself that the landscape before me was not an idle dream. To add to our
satisfaction, the kervanbashi announced to the caravan that the danger
from attacks was over, and that we should be permitted to build our
fires after to-night. Our Turkoman fellow-travellers attributed the
abundance of water to the fact that we, the hadjis, had been with them.
We refilled our canteens and gaily proceeded on our journey.



XXI.

IN KHIVA.


Towards evening we arrived at the ravine beyond which spread the
so-called plain of _Kaflankir_ (Tigerland). The ascent to this
table-land, which is about three hundred feet high, was excessively
fatiguing to men and animals alike. The Turkomans allege that Kaflankir
had been anciently an island formed by two arms of the Oxus, which were
flowing all around it. It is undeniable that this tract of land differs
greatly from the surrounding wilderness in its structure, the luxuriance
of its vegetation, and the great number of animals it harbours. We had
met, it is true, thus far with solitary gazelles and wild asses on our
march, but here we saw them browsing in flocks by hundreds. On one
occasion we saw an immense cloud of dust approaching from the north,
coming nearer and nearer. The kervanbashi and the Turkomans immediately
seized their arms, and their impatience increased the nearer the cloud
drew. We finally succeeded in discovering that it was caused,
apparently, by a troop of horsemen advancing in full gallop, in a
regular line. The Turkomans dropped their arms. Fifty paces from us we
perceived a herd of animals wildly running and almost concealed by the
dust; and one minute later we heard a sound reminding one of the sudden
halt of a troop of a thousand horsemen in line. We saw before us
innumerable wild asses, stopping suddenly in serried ranks. These strong
and lively animals stood staring at us for a second, and then started
away like the whirlwind in a western direction.

On the 28th of May we came to _Shor Gol_ (salt lake) in the plateau of
Kaflankir. We took a rest of six hours in order to go through the
ablutions commanded by Islam, which for some time we had been compelled
to neglect. On this occasion my fellow-travellers opened their bundles,
and every one of them found a spare shirt in it; I was the only one who
had none. Hadji Bilal offered me the loan of one, but I declined it with
thanks, well knowing that in my apparent poverty lay my greatest
security. My face was covered by a layer of dust an inch thick. I had
numerous occasions, in the desert, to wash it off, but I preferred
keeping it on as a protection against the heat of the sun. Truth to
tell, not only myself, but all the others were dreadfully disfigured by
the _teyemmun_, or washing with the sand, the substitute for the
ablutions with water, ordered by the Prophet to travellers in the
desert. After my friends had been washing and dressing, I saw only what
great lords they looked like in comparison to me. Several of them
offered to lend me parts of their wardrobe, but I thanked them
cordially, and in refusing their kind offers, I announced to them that I
should wait until the Khan of Khiva supplied me with a garment.

We had been toiling on for four days in the high plateau of
Kaflankir, when one morning my eyes were gladdened by the sight of
numerous tents on our right and left. The occupants of these tents came
flocking out to meet us, receiving us with the friendly greeting of
"Aman gheldinghiz!" (Happily come!) Ilias having many friends amongst
the people who were encamped here, he proceeded at once to procure from
them hot bread and other Kurban (they were just then celebrating this,
one of the most important holidays of Islam) gifts. He came back very
soon from his errand, loaded down with meat, bread, and _kimiss_ (a
sharp and acid beverage brewed of mare's milk), all of which he
distributed amongst us. Before long Nomads living at a greater distance
were arriving to shake hands with us, and thus perform an act pleasing
to God. For our share in this pious act we were remembered by gifts of
great quantities of camel's, horse's and sheep's flesh.

[Illustration: AN ASININE ARMY.]

As we were preparing our tea on the evening of the 30th of May, we were
startled by the wild scampering of the camels which we had turned loose.
Before we had time to investigate the cause of their fright, five
horsemen appeared all of a sudden keeping straight towards us at the top
of their horses' speed. We, too, immediately ran to our arms, and in a
second we stood prepared to meet them. But the horsemen slackened their
pace and the Turkomans soon discovered that they had been mistaken in
supposing them to be hostile, for they only wanted to go with us as
members of our caravan.

On the following morning we came to an Uzbeg village belonging to
_Akyap_ (the white canal). At this place we had entirely left behind us
the wilderness lying between Gomushtepe and Khiva. Here I saw Uzbegs for
the first time, and I found them very kind and friendly people. As usual
we made, with our visits, the round of all the houses, and earned with
our fatihas a plentiful harvest. We might still have reached Ilias's
dwelling-place on the same day, but he had his dose of vanity and did
not wish us to arrive there unexpectedly. We therefore passed the night,
within two hours' march of his home, at the house of a rich uncle of
his, who entertained us most sumptuously. In the interval he sent word
of our arrival to his wife, and next morning, on the 1st of June, we
entered the village of Akyap. The numerous kinsmen and friends of Ilias
came out to meet us, receiving us most cordially. To me he offered a
handsome tent, for my quarters, but I preferred his garden, for my soul
had long been yearning for the shade of trees. After a brief rest we
resumed our march towards the capital, which we reached in safety on the
following day. The capital, seen at a distance, surrounded by gardens
and surmounted by its many towers and cupolas, makes a pleasing
impression upon the traveller. In entering through the main gate of the
city I could not shake off a certain fear of being found out or
suspected by the Khan of Khiva, whose cruelty was condemned by the
Tartars themselves, and at whose hands I had reason to expect a much
sterner treatment than even from the Turkomans. I had heard that the
Khan makes a slave of every stranger suspected by him, and that only
recently this had been the sad fate of a Hindoo, alleged to be of
princely origin. But by this time I was accustomed to brave almost any
danger without losing my presence of mind. I therefore kept perfectly
cool, and only busied myself devising schemes by means of which I might
outwit the superstitious tyrant. I had collected, on the way, reliable
and full information about every prominent man in Khiva who had visited
Constantinople. The name of a certain Shukrullah Bey, who had there
passed ten years in the capacity of an ambassador to the Sublime Porte,
was most frequently mentioned, in this connection. I had a sort of hazy
recollection of having met this man at the house of the Turkish
Secretary of State. This Shukrullah Bey, I reflected, knows Stambul
well; he must be familiar with the language and manners current with its
better classes. Now I should pretend to a former acquaintanceship with
him, and force it upon him whether he wants it or no; and as I thought
myself fully capable of acting the character of a man from Stambul to
such a perfection as to impose upon a native of that place, I felt sure
that I should not to be suspected by the late ambassador of the Khan of
Khiva, who would be thus obliged in a manner to countenance me.

Many people were already waiting for us at the gate, offering us bread
and dried fruit. For years there had not arrived such a numerous party
of hadjis; and people came crowding around, and gaping at us from every
street in the city. We were greeted on all sides by the words, "Aman
essen gheldinghiz!" (Happily arrived!) "Ha shahbazim! Ha arslanim!" (My
falcon! My lion!) As soon as we arrived at the bazaar, Hadji Bilal began
with a _telkin_ (a hymn). My voice being the loudest of all, I could not
help being moved upon people kissing my hands, feet, and even the
loosely hanging rags of my garment, as if I had been some first-class
saint or had just descended from heaven. We put up, according to the
custom of the country, at the caravansary, used at the same time for a
Custom House, and I set out, before long, in search of Shukrullah Bey. I
had been told that he was now without any employment or office, and was
living in a cell at the Medresse of Mehemmed Emin, the finest building
in Khiva. I introduced myself to him through one of his attendants as an
Effendi come from Stambul, adding that I had known him there and wished
to pay him my respects in passing through Khiva. The old gentleman was
quite astonished at so strange an occurrence and came out himself to
receive me, but was quite startled upon seeing before him a tattered
beggar in rags. He nevertheless took me into his room, and no sooner had
I pronounced a few words with the genuine Stambul accent, than he began
to inquire, with increasing interest, after his friends at the Turkish
capital, the political configurations, the new Sultan, and so forth.
When, in the course of conversation, we became better acquainted,
Shukrullah Bey thus apostrophized me: "For the love of God, what has
induced thee, Effendi, to come from Stambul, that earthly paradise, to
these fearful countries?" I then told him that I belonged to an order of
dervishes, that my _pir_ (spiritual chief) had sent me on this journey,
and that a _murid_ (a novice) is bound to obey the commands of the
_pir_, even at the risk of his life. My new acquaintance was highly
pleased with my explanations, and only wished to know the name of the
dervish order to which I belonged, and when I told him that of the
_Nakishbend_, he became aware that Bokhara was the object of my
pilgrimage. He was desirous of immediately arranging quarters at the
Medresse for me, but I declined, excusing myself by mentioning my
fellow-travellers whom I had left behind, and went away promising to
renew my visit very soon.

An officer from the Court came to me on the following day, bringing with
him presents, destined for me, from the Khan, and orders from the latter
to make my appearance at the _ark_ (palace) that very evening, in order
to bestow on him, the Khan, my fatiha, it being the Hazret's (his
majesty's) most cherished wish to receive the blessing of a dervish
coming from the Holy Land. I told him I should obey. I called upon
Shukrullah Bey in the afternoon, as he wished to be present at the
audience, and was conducted by him to the palace of the Khan. On our way
there he gave me directions how to comport myself, and described to me
the ceremonial I was to observe on being presented to the Khan. He
informed me, at the same time, that not being on good terms with the
_mehter_ (minister), who looked on him as his rival, his, Shukrullah
Bey's, recommendation might perhaps injure me rather than be of benefit
to me. But following the prevailing custom, I nevertheless had myself
first introduced to the mehter. His ante-chamber, it being audience day,
was cramful of people who, on our entrance, respectfully made way for
us, standing aside. Some women present were pointing at me, saying:
"This is the dervish from Constantinople, who will bestow benediction on
our Khan. May the Lord hearken to his words!"

I found the mehter in a porch, surrounded by his men, who smiled at
every word uttered by him. His dark complexion and long beard reaching
to his chest showed him to be a Persian. When he saw me approaching him
he said something to his attendants. I marched up boldly to him, saluted
him with becoming gravity, and immediately sat down in the principal
place belonging by rights to a dervish. After saying the customary
prayer, followed by every one's stroking his beard, and responding with
a loud "Amen," I exchanged the usual formal courtesies with the mehter.
Then he told me that the Hazret--at which word everybody rose from his
seat--wished to see me, but that he would be very glad if I could
produce a couple of lines from the Embassy at Teheran or the Sultan. I
replied that my journey had no worldly aims, that I required nothing of
anybody, but that for the safety of my person I had brought with me a
firman provided with the _tugra_ (the Sultan's seal). In saying this I
handed the mehter my passport, which he kissed with great reverence,
rubbing the seal against his forehead: then he rose and said he would
give the document to the Khan. Shortly afterwards he returned,
announcing to me that the Khan was ready to receive me. Shukrullah Bey
entered first, and I had to wait until the necessary preparations were
made. Although I was introduced as a dervish, the Khan had been informed
by Shukrullah Bey that I knew every distinguished pasha in
Constantinople. After a while I was taken by the arm by two officers,
the curtain was drawn aside, and I saw before me _Seid Mehemmed Khan
Padishahi Kharezm_, the Khan of Khiva, seated on a terrace-like
platform, a round velvet cushion supporting one arm, and holding a short
gold sceptre in his other hand. Strictly adhering to the ceremonial
prescribed for me, I lifted my hand, all present and the Khan himself
following my example, recited a brief _sura_, a short passage from the
Koran, two _alahumu sellahs_ (God be praised) and a short prayer. As the
Khan was taking hold of his beard in order to respond with "Amen" at the
termination of the prayer every one called out, "Kabul bolgai!" (May thy
prayer be heard!). Thereupon I drew near the prince, who held out his
hand, and after having gone through the _mussafeha_ (the salutation
prescribed by the Koran--the two persons in giving a greeting extend an
outstretched hand to each other), I retreated a few steps, and there was
an end to the ceremony. The Khan now commenced to make inquiries about
the object of my journey, and the impression the Turkomans, the great
desert, and Khiva had made upon me. I replied that I had undergone a
great many trials and sufferings, but that the sight of the _Hazret's
djemal mubarek_ (his Majesty's blessed beauty) compensated me abundantly
for all my sufferings. "I thank Allah," I continued, "for allowing me
to have this extraordinary good fortune, and I believe that I must look
upon this signal favour of _Kismet_ (fate) as a good omen for the safe
progress of my journey." I was asked by the Khan if I intended to remain
a long time in Khiva, and whether I was provided with the necessary
wherewithal for my journey. I answered to him that before continuing my
journey I intended visiting the graves of all the saints reposing in the
blessed soil of the Khanate, and that as to being provided with the
needful travelling expenses, we dervishes did not trouble ourselves
about such worldly trifles; the _nefes_ (holy spirit) which was given to
me by my _pir_ (chief of the dervish order) on my journey would sustain
life in me for four or five days without taking any food. Therefore I
had no other wish but that God might prolong his Majesty's life to one
hundred and twenty years.

[Illustration: AUDIENCE WITH THE KHAN OF KHIVA.]

My words seemed to have pleased his Royal Majesty, for he ordered that I
should be given twenty gold pieces and a strong ass. I did not accept
the money, under the pretext that it was a sin for a dervish to be
possessed of money, but accepted the animal, adding, however, the
request to select, if possible, a white one, for it was one of that
colour which the sacred law prescribed for pilgrimages. I was about to
withdraw, when I was asked by the Khan to be at least his guest during
the short time I intended to pass at the capital, and to accept during
this time from his treasury, daily, two _tenghes_ (a sixpence) for my
board. This offer, too, was declined with thanks, and I retired after
having given my final benediction. Upon returning, I was greeted most
respectfully with _selam aleikums_ (Peace be unto you!) by the people
who were thronging the courtyard of the palace and the bazaar. I did not
breathe freely until I found myself in safety within the four walls of
my cell.

Every feature in the Khan's face betrayed the debauched, worn-out,
dull-minded, inhuman tyrant; his eyes were deeply sunken, his lips of a
pallid white, and his voice was shaky. I was profoundly thankful for his
exceptional kindness to me, and was pleased to think that I now could
employ the time I had in wandering through the Khanate to my heart's
content without any interference.

There was not much to be seen at the capital itself, and what little
there was worthy of note might have been easily looked at in a couple of
days. But my time was entirely taken up by invitations from the Khan,
the government officials and prominent merchants. Since it had become
generally known that I was in the good graces of the king, everybody
wished me and my dervish companions to be his guests. It was a real
torture for me, to have to accept six and even eight invitations a day.
I recall with a shudder, to this day, the number of times I had to sit
down, early in the morning, between three and four o'clock, to a plate
of rice swimming in a gravy of mutton fat. The _Toshebaz_ (the name of
the cloister where I was quartered) comprised a mosque and a large
water-tank, and was therefore looked upon as a public building, and
continually swarming with visitors. This offered me a very good
opportunity of observing the dress, the mode of life and all the doings
of the Uzbegs, and to become personally acquainted with several of them.
The men wear tall pyramid-shaped fur caps on their head, and enormously
large boots of Russian leather of shapeless bulk on their feet, besides
which their costume consists in summer of only a long shirt. The women
wear turbans of immense size, consisting of from fifteen to twenty
Russian pocket handkerchiefs rolled one into the other, and are
compelled, poor creatures, to drag jars of water during the greatest
heat, having on their feet tremendously large boots, and muffled up in
their manifold dresses. Often women were stopping at my door asking for
a little _khakishifa_ (health-powder) which the pilgrims bring with them
from _Medina_, from the house of the Prophet, and which is used as a
medicine against all sorts of ailings; or they would beg for a _nefes_
(holy breath) and give a detailed account of their bodily sufferings. I
had, of course, to comply with all requests, and touching the sore place
I blew or breathed on it three times. Thereupon the patient heaved a
deep sigh, and many of them insisted that they immediately felt relieved
from pain. Both I and my hadji friends had reason to be gratified with
the brilliant success of our dealing in the holy breath, for I myself
earned fifteen gold pieces for the heavenly article.

I soon had occasion to become convinced that the mehter, the Khan's
minister, was trying to injure me for no other reason except that he
hated Shukrullah Bey, who patronized me. He could not very well doubt my
being a Turk, but he endeavoured to make the Khan believe that I had put
on the dervishship as a mask merely for some secret mission from the
Sultan on which I was now going to Bokhara. Information of his
perfidiousness had already reached me, and I was not at all surprised at
being again invited to the Khan's court, a few days only after my first
audience. A large company was present, and he received me immediately
with the question, if it was true that I was versed in worldly knowledge
too, and that I could write in a flowery style. He wished me to write
something for him in the fashion of Stambul, which he was very desirous
to see. I very well knew that the request was made in consequence of the
mehter's machinations against me, who enjoyed the reputation of being
clever in fine and flowery writing and had made inquiries respecting me
of my hadji-companions. I produced my writing materials and wrote as
follows: "High, mighty and terrible king and lord! I, thy poorest
humblest servant, immersed in thy royal graces, keeping before my eyes
the proverb that every fine writer is a fool, have hitherto occupied
myself but little with studies of fine writing. On the other hand I
recalled that other saying, that every fault becomes a virtue as soon as
it pleases the king, and found courage to write down these lines."

These high-sounding titles pleased the Khan very much, but the mehter
was too stupid to perceive the drift of my allusions. I was told to sit
down and, having been treated with bread and tea, called upon by the
Khan to come and talk with him. Politics were, this time, the exclusive
topic of our conversation, but I, remaining faithful to the character of
a dervish, showed but little interest in the matter, and every word had
to be forced out of me. All this while the mehter was attentively
listening and keenly scanning the expression of my countenance in the
hope of my saying something to justify his suspicions, but it was all to
no purpose. The Khan sent me away again with the repeated assurance of
his good graces, and told me to draw upon his treasurer for my daily
stipend. He ordered a _yasaul_ (a court officer) to take me to the
treasurer. I found the treasurer, who paid me at once the sum as
directed, singularly employed. He was arranging the _khilat_ (robe of
honour), that is, those garments which were destined to be sent to the
camp in order to invest with them the heroes, in reward of their
bravery. There were four different sorts of silk suits of clothing, all
of them the most glaring colours, richly embroidered with flowers in
gold; and dividing them into four groups, he called them suits of four
heads, suits of twelve heads, suits of twenty and of forty heads.
This nomenclature struck me as very odd, all the more so as there was
not the slightest trace of a head to be seen on those garments. Instead
of answering my question the treasurer told me to meet him in a large
public square on the following morning. I was there at the appointed
time. I found about a hundred horsemen, who had just arrived from the
camp, covered with dust, each of them leading a couple of prisoners,
amongst them women and children, who were tied either to the horses'
tails or the saddle-bows, each horseman bringing with him, besides, a
sack which was thrown across the saddle. As soon as they arrived each of
them handed over the prisoners, he had brought with him, as a present to
the Khan, or some other grandee of the land; then they removed the sacks
from the saddles and taking hold of the two sides of the one end they
spilled their contents on the ground as one does with potatoes. But
these were human heads, the heads of slaughtered enemies, which were
rolling at the feet of the official who wrote down their number. He
first carefully counted the number of heads brought by each horseman and
then gave a receipt for the same, the servant kicking them meanwhile
into a heap. The horsemen galloped away with their receipts, which were
drafts upon the treasurer for their respective rewards, in the shape of
robes of honour of four, twenty or forty heads.

[Illustration: A ROAD IN CENTRAL ASIA.]

The Yasaul who was to take me to the treasurer had, before doing so,
another order to attend to; I was therefore obliged to go with him.
There were three hundred Tchaudor (a Turkoman tribe) prisoners of war in
the third courtyard, and it was in reference to these that the Yasaul
had received the Khan's orders. These unfortunate people were all
covered with rags, and looked, owing to their fear of death and the
starving they had to undergo for days past, like dead men risen from
their graves. They were already divided into two groups, those under
forty years of age who were fit to be sold as slaves or to be made a
present of, and those who owing to their position or advanced age are
looked upon as _aksakals_ (graybeards or chieftains), and were subject
to the punishments meted out by the Khan. Those of the first class were
led away by their escorts, in bands of fifteen tied to each other by
iron collars. The second group were anticipating with patient
resignation, like sheep taken to the slaughter-house, the horrible fate
in store for them. Part of them were sent to the block or to the
gallows; eight of them, of an advanced age, lay down on their backs at a
hint from the executioner. In this situation their hands and feet were
tied, and he, kneeling on their chests, and stabbing with a sharp knife
the eyes of each of them, in turn, deprived them of their eyesight.
After he had accomplished his cruel task he wiped his bloody knife on
the grey beard of one of his victims. It was a dreadful sight to see
these miserable people, after the fetters had been removed from their
hands and feet, in their groping attempts to rise from the ground. Some
knocked their heads against one another, others sank to the ground again
from sheer exhaustion, moaning and beating the ground with their feet in
their agony. I shall think with horror of this scene as long as I live.

I bestowed upon the Khan my blessing upon taking leave. He asked me to
come back by the way of Khiva as he wished to send with me an ambassador
to Constantinople, whose mission it would be to obtain from the new
Sultan the customary confirmation for himself. I replied that it was
sinful to think of the future, but we should see by and by what _Kismet_
(fate) ordains. I then took leave of every one whose acquaintance I had
made, or whose friendship I had gained, during my stay of one month in
Khiva.



XXII.

FROM KHIVA TO BOKHARA.


We met for our departure in the cool and shady yard of the Toshebaz. The
charity and liberality of the inhabitants of Khiva was manifestly
traceable in the altered appearance of the mendicant caravan. The
moth-eaten fur caps which we had adopted amongst the Turkomans had given
way to turbans of spotless white. The conglomeration of tatters,
dignified by the name of apparel, was gone, and the very travelling
outfit was far superior to our former holiday apparel. Our bags were
filled to bursting, and we experienced great satisfaction in observing
that even the poorest of us was provided with an ass, however
diminutive. The time for carrying black flour with me was now over; its
place was supplied by white cakes, and my store contained such luxuries
as rice, butter and sugar. The only article I would not change was my
dress. I had been presented with a shirt, it is true, but I did not put
it on, thinking that such superfluities, for which the time had not come
yet, might have an effeminate effect upon me. It was rather late in the
afternoon of the 2nd of June when, having happily got over the
never-ending benedictions and farewell embraces, our party left Khiva.
The over-zealous ran after us for half an hour, shedding copious tears
and saying to us in taking leave: "Who knows when Khiva will be again so
fortunate as to have so many pious men for guests within her walls!"
_Godshe_ was the name of the small town where we passed the first night.
Here we put up for the first time at the _kalenterkhane_, that is, an
inn for the separate and special accommodation of dervishes which it is
customary for every larger community to provide. From here to _Khanka_
we uninterruptedly passed through cultivated land. In the kalenterkhane
at Khanka I found two half-naked dervishes, who were just in the act of
abandoning themselves to the indulgence of opium-eating when I entered.
They at once asked me to join them, offering me a goodly dose thereof,
and were quite astonished to hear me refuse their kind proffer. They
were not to be easily baffled in their friendly attentions, and treated
me to tea instead. While I drank my tea they swallowed their poppy-seed
poison. In half an hour's time the drug had taken effect; they were both
in the realms of the happy; but while the face of the one sleeper wore
an expression of joy and delight, the agonies of terrible fear were
depicted in the countenance of the other.

Towards evening on the day of our departure from Khanka we came to the
Oxus. The spring rains must have considerably swelled the volume of its
waters, forcing them beyond their ordinary bed; for I found the river
much more considerable than I imagined it to be. The yellow water of the
Oxus is not so good in its bed as it is in the canals issuing from it,
or in its side-branches, where the water, flowing more slowly, is apt
to cool off sooner. Where the sand is settling in the Oxus, there the
water for sweetness and purity has no rival in the world. Toll must be
paid for crossing the Oxus, but the payment of it will in itself not
pass a person; one must also be provided with a _petek_ (a license to
cross). The hadjis had one passport, in common; I had myself been given
a separate one which ran thus: "Be it known to the guards on the
frontier and the collectors of customs and tolls that Hadji Mollah
Abdur-Reshid Effendi was granted a license. Let nobody molest or
interfere with him."

Our transportation across the river commenced at ten o'clock in the
forenoon; and it was sundown when we reached the opposite shore. We
might have crossed the mighty river itself in half an hour's time, but
on its smaller side-branches we ran aground; the sandbanks, every ten
minutes, forcing the passengers and animals to disembark in order that
the ferry-boat might be pushed off into deeper water, and more time
being lost getting on board again. The shipping and the unloading of the
asses, particularly the stubborn ones, gave no end of troublesome and
hard work; the passengers being compelled, for the most part, to carry
the animals bodily from and into the boat. There is one laughable scene
before my eyes at this very moment; how tall, rawboned Hadji Yakub
packed his little ass on his back, gathering up in his lists the
struggling legs of the frightened animal, which meekly leant its head on
the neck of the hadji. Our caravan could proceed but very slowly. When
we were near _Akkamish_ (white reed), the kervanbashi, two others, and
myself, trusting to the speed of our animals, took advantage of the
tardy progress of the caravan, and turned aside to visit _Shurakhan_,
where the weekly fair was being held, in order to replenish our
provisions.

Shurakhan consists chiefly of those three hundred shops which are open
two days a week, and where the permanent inhabitants of the neighbouring
country and the nomads happening to camp there, can obtain the
necessaries of life. I entrusted my companions with the making of the
needful purchases, and sauntered away to the kalenterkhane, outside the
place. Here I met again with several dervishes whose frames, reduced to
mere skeletons, plainly showed their indulgence in _bang_ (opium
prepared from hemp). Bang is most universally used for intoxicating
purposes in Khiva, and the sinful indulgence in it by many arises from
the fact that the Koran forbidding the use of wine and other spirituous
liquors, the transgression of that commandment is punished with death by
the government. I returned to the fair to join my friends, but it was
with great difficulty that I succeeded in pushing my way through the
swarming multitude. Everybody was on horseback, buyers as well as
sellers. Kirghiz women on horseback were vending _kimiss_ (a sourish
beverage prepared from mare's milk) in large skin jugs, and it was
amusing to see with what dexterity they put the mouth of the jug to the
lips of their customer, who was on horseback too, without ever spilling
a single drop. At the caravan they had been looking out for us with the
greatest impatience, and we resumed our march at sunset, for henceforth
we were to travel at night only. As we marched on by the light of the
moon, the spectacle was indeed entrancing--the moving caravan and its
fantastic shadows, upon which the pale moon shed its mysterious silvery
light, flanked on the right by the Oxus rolling its darkling waters with
a hoarse murmur, on the left the awful desert of Tartary stretching its
endless vista. We met with some Kirghiz Nomads on the following day, and
I seized the opportunity of addressing a few words to a Kirghiz woman,
asking her if she did not weary of this roving gipsy life of hers. "We
cannot be so indolent," she answered, "as you mollahs are, and spend the
entire day in one place. Man must move about, the sun, the moon, the
stars, the water, animals, birds, fish, all are moving; only the dead
and the earth lie motionless."

As we were continuing our march along the willow-covered shores of the
Oxus, we were met by five merchants from Khiva, on horseback, who had
made their way from Bokhara to this point in four days, and who,
moreover, brought us the cheering news that the roads were perfectly
safe and that most likely we should on the following day meet with the
caravan they had left.

It was at the break of day on the 4th of July when we suddenly stumbled
upon two men, in an entirely nude state, who in a pitiful voice could
only repeat, "A piece of bread! a piece of bread!" and then fainted
away. They were at once given some bread, water and mutton fat, and
recovering themselves they told us that they were sailors from Hevaves,
had been attacked by a band of Tekke-Turkoman robbers, numbering about
one hundred and fifty, and had been robbed by them of their boat, their
clothing, their bread and everything else they had. "For the love of
God," they said, "run or hide, for you are sure to come across them in a
couple of hours, and although you are pious pilgrims, they will strip
you of everything and leave you naked in the wilderness, for the Kafir
(infidel) Tekke is capable of everything."

No sooner did the kervanbashi hear the name of Tekke mentioned than he
gave instant orders to retrace our steps. We were to retreat as fast as
was compatible with the pace of the poor, heavily laden camels. Of
course it was well-nigh an impossibility to get away with camels from
Turkoman horses, but we counted that it would take until morning for one
hundred and fifty horsemen to cross the river, and whilst they were
cautiously reconnoitring we might safely reach Tunuklu. There we
intended to fill our canteens with water and then to turn into the
desert of _Khalata_, where we hoped to escape from the pursuit of the
Tekkes. After tremendous exertions we arrived with our animals quite
exhausted in Tunuklu. Here we had to remain until our animals were
rested and fed, for in their present condition they could not have
reached the first station in the desert. We passed three mortal hours in
unquestionable anxiety, making our preparations for the awful journey,
and the sun had not set when our caravan was wending its way, from the
ruins of Tunuklu, along the road leading to Khalata.

Knowing the terrors of the desert as we did, one may easily imagine with
what feelings myself and my fellow-travellers commenced this new journey
through the desert. We had travelled from Gomushtepe to Khiva in the
month of May, and now we were in July; then we found some rain-water,
now we should not find even salt-water. With what longing did we look at
the Oxus, on whose bosom the setting sun was casting a halo of light, as
it receded, to the right, from our sight. The very animals, dumb as they
were, kept their eyes continuously in that direction. The sky was
covered already with stars when we reached the sandy desert. We
proceeded as noiselessly as possible for fear of attracting the
attention of the Turkomans whom we thought not to be far off. They could
not possibly see us in the darkness of the night, and the moon would
rise late. The soft ground prevented the noise of the tramp of the
animals being heard, and the only thing we apprehended was that one of
our animals might take it into its head to give us a specimen of its
charming voice. Fortunately the spirit of singing did not descend on any
of them. About midnight we reached a place where all of us had to
dismount, as the animals were wading knee deep in the fine sand.

Our station on the morning of the 5th of July was called _Adamkirilgan_,
that is, man destroyer, and one glance taken at the surrounding objects
was sufficient to prove the propriety of this appellation. As far as the
eye could reach, nothing but sand, sand, now like the stormy sea lashing
itself into tremendous waves, now again presenting the spectacle of the
rippling caused by gentle breezes on the bosom of a calm lake. No bird
can be seen in the air, nor insect on the earth; all the eye can
discover here and there are the sad signs of decay, the skeletons of
lost men and animals, which are placed in a heap by the travellers in
order to serve them as a guide. Here, of course, we were safe from the
Turkomans, for there is no horse in the world capable of walking the
distance of one station through this sand. According to our
kervanbashi's statement the journey from Tunuklu to Bokhara, generally
took six days, three through the sand and three on solid ground, covered
here and there with grass. We had to fear then, altogether, one day's or
one and a half day's want of water. But I observed on the very first day
that the water of the Oxus we had with us upset all our calculations, as
it diminished with frightful rapidity in spite of our utmost economy, a
phenomenon which I attributed to evaporation. Everybody of course guards
his skin most carefully, and jealously hugs it close to his bosom when
asleep. We marched six hours every day in spite of the dreadful heat,
wishing to get out of the sandy desert as soon as possible; for if we
happened to be caught dozing in the sand for only a few seconds by the
murderous _tebbad_ wind, the lives of the whole caravan would be in
danger, whilst on the solid ground of the desert beyond, such a tebbad
visitation involved only an attack of high fever. The forced march had
worn out our camels to such an extent that two of them died on the 6th
of July.

Our toilsome march had now lasted three days; the scorching heat
enervated us all and reduced our strength. Two of our poorer
companions, who had been compelled, owing to the inferiority of their
animals, to trudge by their side on foot, had consumed all the water
they had, and became, for want of it, so sick that they had to be tied
to the backs of the camels, being unable both to walk and to sit
upright. They were covered up besides. As long as their voices did not
desert them, they were constantly begging for water. It is the pitiful
truth, alas! that their best friends denied them the boon of a few
drops of the life-giving elixir, and it was reserved for grim death to
be more generous and relieve one of them from the pangs of thirst on
reaching Medemin Bulag, at which place he expired. I was near the
unhappy man when he had breathed his last. His tongue had turned quite
black, his throat was of a grayish white, but his features were not
overmuch discomposed, except his mouth, which was gaping, owing to the
shrunken state of his lips. I am not sure if the bathing of water would
have been of any benefit to the poor fellow, but the thought that
nobody attempted to save the dying man by offering him one swallow of
water did not cease to haunt me for many a day to come. The father
hides his liquid store from his son, the brother from his brother, for
every drop of it not only represents life but relief from the dreadful
torture of thirst, the fear of the latter banishing that self-sacrifice
and generous-mindedness which we often have an opportunity to witness
on other occasions of danger and peril.

The Khalata mountains which signalize the beginning of the hard-soiled
desert, were not yet within sight. Our camels were unable to proceed,
their weakness and fatigue necessitating a further stay of one day, the
fourth day, amid the burning sand of the desert. My store of water was
reduced to about six glasses of water, which I kept in my leather flask;
of this I durst not drink more than a drop at a time, the consequence
being that I was constantly suffering from thirst. To my horror I
discovered a black spot in the middle part of my tongue, and this was
sufficient to make me at once swallow one half of my store. I thought I
was saved, but on the following morning a burning sensation accompanied
by a violent headache made itself felt, more and more, and by the time
the Khalata mountains loomed up in the distant horizon like towering
blue clouds, my strength gradually failed me. The nearer we drew to the
mountains the scarcer the sand became, and every eye was eagerly looking
out for some herd or shepherd's hut. All of a sudden some one called the
kervanbashi's attention to an approaching cloud of dust, who seeing it
became deadly pale with fright, and exclaimed: "This is the tebbad."
Every one dismounted at once from the camels. The animals were quicker
to feel the approach of the stifling wind and had knelt down, roaring
loud, on the ground, laying down their long necks flat before them, and
trying to hide their heads in the sand. We used the animals as a bulwark
against the coming storm, crouching down near them, and hardly had we
time to do so when the wind swept over our heads with a deep roar,
covering us with a layer of sand of the thickness of half an inch, its
first grains burning as like drops of fiery rain. Had we been attacked
by the tebbad five miles more inland, we should have been all
irretrievably destroyed. I did not observe the symptoms of fever
attended with vomiting which are said to be the effects of this wind,
but the atmosphere became sensibly heavier and more oppressive.

We scrambled up when it was over, and found to our intense satisfaction
after a short while that the sand was gone. From three roads which led
from the edge of the sandy desert to Bokhara we chose the shortest one,
and resuming our march we came, towards evening, across several wells
that had not been visited, even by herdsmen, this year. The water we
found in them was unfit for man, but the animals drank their fill from
it. We were all of us in the last stages of exhaustion, and nothing but
hope kept up the spark of life within our enfeebled frames. Coming to
the next station I was not able to get off my animal without assistance,
and was taken down and laid on the ground. I felt a dreadful internal
fire and my head stupified by the violence of the headache. My pen has
no power to describe the tortures of thirst unallayed which I underwent
at that moment, nor do I think there is any more painful mode of death,
for I had hitherto bravely faced all kind of dangers, keeping up my
manhood--but now I was completely broken down; I felt my power of
resistance had deserted me and had no hopes of ever surviving the night.
Towards noon we took up our march again; I fell asleep, and on awaking
on the 10th of July I found myself lying on the ground in a mud hut,
surrounded by men with long beards whom I at once recognized as natives
of Iran. They first administered to me tepid milk, then I had to take
some sour milk mixed with salt and water, called _ayran_ by them, and
very soon recovered my strength from the combined effect of both these
beverages. I now learned that, together with my companions, we were the
guests of a couple of Persian slaves camping here, in the desert, at a
distance of forty miles from Bokhara, they having charge of large flocks
of sheep, but being very sparingly provided with bread and water, so as
to prevent them from making an attempt to escape. Yet these Persians,
poor slaves as they were, had the broad charitableness which gives water
to their ancient and inveterate foes, the Sunnite mollahs. They became
particularly kind to me when they heard me addressing them in their
native language, the Persian. The sight of a child-boy only five years
old, who was also a slave, inspired me with feelings of profoundest
pity. He had been taken prisoner two years ago, together with his
father; and being asked the particulars of his life he answered: "My
father has bought (ransomed) himself; nor am I to remain a slave above
two years, for my father will earn the necessary money to set me free by
that time." The poor child had hardly a rag to cover his nakedness, and
his skin was as dark as tanned leather.



XXIII.

IN BOKHARA.


We marched into Bokhara on the 12th of July, and betook ourselves
straight to the spacious _tekkie_ (convent), shaded by trees, which,
forming a regular square, is provided with forty-eight cells on the
ground floor. The chief of this building was the descendant of some
saint, the court-priest of the Emir, and a man enjoying universal
respect. Hadji Salih, my intimate friend and companion, had been at one
time a pupil of this holy man, our present host, and, in that capacity,
he took upon himself at once to introduce me and the more prominent
members of our party to him. The recommendation and introduction coming
from such a source, we were received in the most friendly manner by the
chief of the tekkie; and having indulged in half an hour's conversation
with me, his satisfaction seemed to know no bounds, and he loudly
expressed his regret at the Badevlet's (his Majesty the Emir's) absence
from Bokhara, which prevented him from taking me to the Emir at once.
He immediately ordered a separate cell, in the most hospitable location
near the mosque, to be assigned to me, one of my neighbours being a
learned mollah, and the other Hadji Salih. The tekkie was full of
celebrities, and I had happened to light on the principal nest of
religious fanaticism in Bokhara. The official reporter had given
information of my arrival as an event of great importance, and
Rahmet-Bi, the first officer of the Emir and commander-in-chief in
Bokhara during the Emir's absence on his campaigns in Kokhand, was
making inquiries of the hadjis about me, on the first day of my stay.
But as the Emir's power does not extend to the tekkie, the
inquisitiveness of his first officer was made so little account of, that
nobody had thought it worth while to inform me of the same. In speaking
of me my friends said: "Hadji Reshid is not only a good Mussulman, but a
learned mollah besides; and he who entertains a suspicion against him
commits a most grievous sin."

On the following day I went out with Hadji Salih and four others of our
party, to take a look at the city and its bazaar. Although the squalid
and rickety buildings and the streets covered with sand, one foot thick,
did not tend to place "noble Bokhara" in the most favourable and
imposing light, yet upon entering the bazaar and beholding the thronging
multitude animating it, I could not refrain from being intensely
interested at the novel sight. The beauty and wealth of the bazaar were
not the things that surprised me, so much as the immense and
multifarious variety in races, dress and manners which struck the eye
everywhere. The type of Iran was visible in the faces of a great portion
of the people; but the Tartar features, which could be seen in all their
shades, from the Uzbeg to the wild Kirghiz, claimed my particular
attention owing to their prominence. The last, and generally the
Turanian race, may be distinguished from the people of Iran by their
heavy and awkward gait. Jews and Hindoos could be seen in great numbers,
too. I cast, now and then, a stealthy glance at the contents of the
shops, finding in them but few goods of the manufacture of Western
Europe, but Russian manufactures were all the more extensively
represented in them. Home-made articles have a separate place assigned
to them in the bazaar, and it is to this place that the Kirghizes, the
Kiptchaks, the Kalmuks and the inhabitants of Chinese Tartary resort to
make their purchases of clothing.

After loitering about and observing for nearly three hours I became so
exhausted with fatigue that I had to request my guide, Hadji Salih, to
allow me to take some rest. He led me, through the tea bazaar, to a
place called the "Divanbeg's Reservoir." It was a tolerably regular
square, in the centre of which a lake, flagged with stones and shaded by
magnificent elm trees, was visible. The place is encircled by tea-shops,
in which gigantic _samovars_ (teapots), manufactured in Russia
especially for Bokhara, are standing. In numerous shops are sold
candies, sweetmeats, bread and fruit, around which thousands of
gourmands and hungry people swarm. A mosque stands on one side of the
palace, in front of which dervishes and _meddahs_ (story-tellers)
recount the heroic deeds of renowned prophets and warriors, distorting
their features in every possible way as they do, to a large and curious
audience. As we were entering the square we saw a procession of fifteen
dervishes from the cloister of Nakishbend pass before our eyes. It was a
sight not to be easily forgotten--the mad jumping about of these
dervishes, in their wild fanaticism, with tall caps on their heads and
their long flowing hair, waving their sticks, and bellowing forth in
chorus a hymn, the several strophes of which were first sung to them by
their gray-headed chief.

Although I had put on a costume such as they wore in Bokhara, and the
sun had disfigured my face to such an extent that my own good mother
would not have recognized me, I was followed, nevertheless, by a crowd
of curious people, whose embraces and hand-shaking became very annoying
to me. Judging by my gigantic turban and the large Koran suspended from
my neck, they evidently took me to be some ishan or Sheikh, and there
was no way to escape the unpleasantness. While in Bokhara, its people
never, during the whole time of my stay there, suspected me, although
they are rather cunning and distrustful. They would come to me for
benedictions, listen to my recitals in public places, but never a
farthing did I get from them.

The authorities did not trust me as implicitly as the people did.
Rahmet-Bi, the Emir's chief officer, whom I have mentioned before, could
not assail me publicly, but he pestered me with spies whose business it
was to engage me in conversation, dragging into it all the time the
Frengistan name, in the hope of seeing me betray myself before them,
through some inadvertent remark. Failing in this method they thought to
frighten me by stray remarks, such as that the Frengis covet the
possession of Bokhara, and that several of their spies and emissaries
had already met with condign punishment. Or they would talk of some
Frengis (unfortunate Italians) who had come to Bokhara a couple of days
ago, and were arrested owing to their alleged importation of several
boxes of tea, sprinkled with diamond dust, for the purpose of poisoning
the entire population of the sacred city. These spies were for the most
part hadjis who had been living for years in Constantinople, and were
now trying to test my knowledge of the language and the circumstances of
that place. To get rid of their obtrusions I pretended to a feeling of
indignation and impatience at their everlasting discussion of the
Frengi. "Why," said I to them, "I have left Constantinople for this very
reason, to get rid of the sight of these Frengis who have robbed the
devil of his reason. I am now, thank God, in noble Bokhara, and have no
wish to waste here my time on speaking about them."

At one time again one of the servants of Rahmet-Bi brought to me, by
orders of his master, a thin little man, requesting me to examine the
individual, and then tell if he were an Arab from Damaskus, as he
claimed to be. Immediately on his entering I was struck by his features,
and set him down at once for a European. I was strengthened in this
opinion after having talked with him for a while, for I found his
pronunciation not to be the true Arabic at all. He told me he was going
to China to visit the grave there of some saint. He was visibly
embarrassed in the course of our conversation. I rather regret not
having met him afterwards, for I strongly suspect he was acting the same
part I was.

The commander-in-chief, finding himself foiled in his attempts to draw
me out by spies, invited me to a _pilar_ (a dish of rice and meat) at
his house, where a brilliant galaxy of the representatives of the ulema
world of Bokhara were awaiting my appearance. As soon as I entered and
looked about me I saw at once that the whole company were assembled to
sit in judgment upon my case; that a hard task awaited me, and that my
powers of dissimulation would have to pass through a fiery ordeal. I
thought best to anticipate their design, and instead of giving them
time to address questions to me, I boldly plunged into a discussion of
some religious dogmas and requested their opinions concerning them. My
zeal met with applause at the hands of the pious assemblage, and a very
heated dispute arising soon after, in which I was careful not to take
any part, concerning some mooted points in the sacred book, I took
occasion to loudly declare the mental superiority of the mollahs of
Bokhara over the ulemas of Constantinople. At length, my trial ended
with my triumph; the learned mollahs gave Rahmet-Bi to understand by
nods and winks and words, that his official reporter had been
outrageously mistaken, and that there could not be the slightest doubt
about my identity.

During my whole stay in Bokhara the heat was intolerable, and I had to
undergo besides the additional infliction of drinking warm water as a
preventative against getting the _rishte_, viz., the filaria medinensis,
with which every tenth person here is afflicted. People in Bokhara think
as little of feeling in summer an itching sensation in their feet or any
part of their bodies, as Europeans do of a cold. The itching is followed
after a while by a red spot, from the centre of which a worm of the
thickness of a thread issues to the length at times, of several yards,
and it must be carefully unwound in the course of a couple of days. This
is the regular course of the disease, which is otherwise unaccompanied
by any pain. But if the worm happens to break whilst being unwound,
inflammation sets in, and six to ten appear where there had been one
before, compelling the patient to keep his bed midst great sufferings
for a week. The more courageous gets the rishte at once removed from his
body, by having it cut out. The barbers in Bokhara perform the operation
with considerable skill; the spot where the itching is felt is cut open
in an instant, the worm removed, and the wound heals in a very short
time.

Bokhara is supplied with water from the Zerefshan (gold-scattering)
river by means of open aqueducts. The canal is sunk to a sufficient
depth, but not kept clean. As it frequently happens to run dry, the
water coming in again is received by the populace with shouts and
screams of delight. First of all the people, young and old, dive into
the basin and take a regular bath; then comes the turn of the horses,
cows, and asses, followed by the dogs. When this general bathing of man
and beast is over any further going into it is forbidden; the water
settles somewhat and becomes clear again, but it remains, nevertheless,
tainted with dirt and messes of all kinds.

There is something of the metropolitan character, withal, about Bokhara,
at least it was so to a man like myself who had been wandering for a
considerable time through the deserts of Central Asia. I had good hot
bread, I could get tea, fruit and cooked eatables; I even went to the
length of having two shirts made for myself, and indeed got to like the
comforts of civilized life to such an extent that it was with a pang of
regret that I listened to my companions talking of the preparations I
should make for our departure, as they wished to reach their distant
Eastern homes before the setting in of winter. I intended, at all
events, to accompany them as far as Samarkand, where I might easily
happen to meet the Emir, in which case my fellow-hadjis would be of
great service to me. There, in Samarkand, I should then have to choose
either to continue the journey to Kokhand and Kashgar, in their company,
or to return by myself to Teheran by way of Herat. I was warmly urged by
Hadji Bilal and Hadji Salih to remain with them, but in order to afford
me every facility, in case I would not be persuaded by them and
insisted upon leaving them at Samarkand, they made me acquainted with a
kervanbashi from Herat, who was staying in Bokhara with one hundred and
fifty camels, and was going to leave for his home, Herat, in three
weeks. _Molla Zeman_ was the name of the kervanbashi; he had known my
friends for a long time, and they recommended me to him in such cordial
terms as if I had been their brother. It was consequently arranged
between me and Molla Zeman, that in case I made up my mind to return
from Samarkand I should meet him in three weeks at Kerki, on the other
side of the Oxus.

Before saying good-bye to Bokhara I shall make some mention of the place
where I first met him. It was one of those caravansaries where the
unfortunate slaves are put up for sale. The Turkoman karaktchi, who
hunts the Persians, cannot afford to wait a long time for his money, he
therefore usually sells his human booty to some wealthier Turkoman, who
makes a business of buying a good many of them, and then takes a large
troop of slaves to Bokhara to be sold there. He then sells as many as he
can during the first days after his arrival, the rest which he is not
able to dispose of he hands over to the dellal to be sold for him; the
latter is the person who does the real wholesale business in slaves.
Slaves of from three to sixty years of age, unless from some cause or
other they have become crippled, are constantly for sale in the marts of
Bokhara and Khiva. The tenets of their religion, it is true, forbid them
to sell into slavery any but unbelievers, but hypocritical Bokhara knows
how to elude the law. Besides the Shi-ite Persians, who are declared to
be unbelievers by the Sunnite law, any number of Sunnite true believers
are sold into slavery, conscience being salved by the simple process of
compelling them before their sale and by the most cruel tortures to
confess to being Shi-ites.

The male slave who is exposed for sale is publicly examined, and the
seller is bound to guarantee that the article sold by him is without a
flaw. The hour in which a slave gets out of the clutches of the
slave-dealer is his happiest, for it is impossible that such
ill-treatment could await him, even at the hand of the worst master, as
he endures whilst in the warehouses of the dealer in human flesh. The
prices paid for the slaves vary according to the political situation,
being favourable or unfavourable, as the Turkomans send their _alamans_
(robber-bands) into the neighbouring countries. At the time of my visit
the price paid for an able-bodied strong man was from forty to fifty
tillas (from. £2 10s. to £3 10s.); but at the time when the Persians
were defeated near Merv, and 10,000 prisoners were taken, a man could be
bought at the low price of from three to four tillas. This abominable
traffic, I am happy to remark, has since the time of my sojourn in
Bokhara, if not entirely ceased, yet certainly greatly abated; and it is
very probable that ere long slaves will not be exposed for sale at all
in Central Asia. For the cessation of this horrible practice we are
indebted to Russia, who has forbidden the slave trade in her own Asiatic
possessions, as well as in the countries under her protection. Nor can
the Turkomans, the chief men-stealers, continue as before their inroads
into Persia to carry away men and cattle.

We had already passed eighteen days in Bokhara, and my friends being
unwilling to remain any longer, we had to proceed on our journey to
Samarkand. Our purses, too, were at a rather low ebb, for in Bokhara we
got nothing beyond hand-shaking. All that we had saved up in Khiva was
spent by us in Bokhara. I had to sell even my animal; and many of my
companions sharing my fate, we were compelled to hire a waggon in order
to continue our journey. Some of our fellow-hadjis said good-bye to us
here, and many and affectionate were the leave-takings and embraces.

Before leaving I paid a farewell visit to Rahmet-Bi, who was kind enough
to furnish me with a letter of recommendation for Samarkand, and made me
promise that I would get myself introduced to the Emir.

The road to Samarkand leads for the most part through well-cultivated
fields, populous and nicely built villages. We halted at five stations
on this road. Now that I was drawing near Samarkand all my curiosity and
interest revived to see this Mecca of my longings of old. Mount
Tchobanata, at the foot of which the city spreads, was already visible,
and climbing up an eminence we saw Samarkand, the city of Timur, before
us in all its pomp and splendour, shining out, with fairy-like
enchantment, with its many coloured cupolas and towers, illumined by the
rosy hue of the rising sun.



XXIV.

IN SAMARKAND.


The Tadjiks maintain to this day that _Samarkand_, this ancient city of
Central Asia, is the centre of the world. And it does, in truth, excel
all the other cities of Central Asia, in its ancient monuments as well
as in the splendour of its mosques, its grand tombs and new structures.
We put up at a large caravansary where hadjis are provided with free
quarters, but having been invited on the day of our arrival to establish
my quarters as a guest in a private house near the tomb of Timur, I
readily accepted the invitation and left the caravansary. I was
agreeably surprised to find in my host an officer of the Emir who was
charged with the superintendence of the Emir's palace at Samarkand. The
return of the Emir, who was about to terminate a successful campaign at
Kokhand, having been announced to take place in a few days, my
fellow-travellers determined to oblige me by putting off their departure
from Samarkand until I had an opportunity to see the Emir and find
suitable companions for my return journey. I employed my time, in the
meanwhile, in looking at the remarkable sights in the city, of which a
greater variety is offered here than in any city in Central Asia. Being
a hadji I had, of course, to begin with the saints. There are here about
a hundred holy places to be visited, and the pilgrims do their visiting
by a certain established rote, according to the superior claims of
persons and places to sanctity. I would not deviate from the observance
of this routine, and looked at everything, in its proper turn, down to
the smallest object, with the zeal and devotion becoming the character I
was acting. Amongst the many, I will mention in passing only the mosque
of Timur; that castle in one of the halls of which the celebrated
_Kök-Tach_ (_i.e._, green stone) is still to be seen upon which the
great Emir had his throne erected, when its hall was crowded with
vassals who hied from all the quarters of the world to do him homage; at
that time when three messengers on horseback were always standing ready
in the precincts of the amphitheatrically constructed hall to blazon
forth the edicts of the conqueror of the world to the remotest corner of
it. The tomb of Timur, and its many brilliant medresses are worth
mentioning too. Only a portion of the latter are used as
dwelling-places, and many of them are threatened with decay. The
medresse of Hanim, once so grand, is in ruins now, and in vain did I
search within mouldering walls for even a trace of the renowned Armenian
and Greek library which Timur is alleged to have brought to Samarkand to
form one of the ornaments of his capital.

[Illustration: SAMARKAND.]

Whilst I was in Samarkand crowds were always thronging in the bazaars as
well as in the public places and streets, to which the soldiers
returning from the war contributed, to a great extent. The number of its
regular population hardly exceeds fifteen to twenty thousand
inhabitants, two-thirds of whom are Uzbegs, and one-third Tadjiks. The
Emir, whose seat of government is properly speaking in Bokhara, used to
spend two or three months during the summer in Samarkand, owing to its
more elevated position and more genial climate.

I had now passed eight days in Samarkand, and I finally came to the
conclusion to return to the West by way of Herat, taking the route I
have mentioned before. Hadji Bilal still insisted on taking me with him
to Aksu, promising to send me safely to Mecca by way of Yarkend, Thibet
and Cashmere, or, if favoured by luck, to Peking by the way of Komul.
But Hadji Salih was opposed to the plan, laying stress on the great
distance and the scantiness of my means. "As far as Aksu, and even
Komul," he said, "thou wouldst experience no difficulty, for Mussulmans
and brothers are living along the road, and they would have regard for
you as a dervish from Roum; but beyond thou wilt meet unbelievers only,
who, it is true, will not hurt thee, but will not give you anything
either. Therefore be advised, and return to Teheran by way of Herat,
with the men we have selected for your travelling companions."

There was a struggle going on within me for a while. To have travelled
by land to Peking, through the ancient fastnesses of the Tartars,
Khirgizes, Mongols, and Chinese, where even Marco Polo would not have
dared to place his feet--would have been indeed a feat without a
parallel! The voice of moderation prevailed with me after all. I
reflected that it would be a pity to risk losing the fruits of the
experiences hitherto gathered, however trifling they might be, by
embarking in an enterprise of great uncertainty and undoubted danger.
And putting off was not giving up; I was only thirty-one years old, and
what I could not well do to-day I might accomplish at some future day. I
made up my mind to return.

My preparations for the journey had advanced considerably when the Emir
made his triumphal entry into Samarkand. Its taking place had been
announced for some days past, and a great multitude had collected on the
_righistan_ (principal public place), to witness the show, but I cannot
say that any special pomp was displayed in the pageant. The procession
was headed by two hundred sherbazes, wearing over the uncouth Bokhara
costume some sort of overall of skin, to which piece of additional dress
they were indebted for their being called regular troops. They were
followed by horsemen with banners and kettledrums, and behind these, at
some distance, came Emir Mozaffar ed-din, surrounded by his higher
officers and chief men. The Emir was forty-two years old, of middle
size, rather stout, but very pleasant in appearance, with fine black
eyes and a thin beard. After the Emir came Kiptchaks--rude, martial
warriors with features nearly Mongolian, armed with bows and arrows and
shields.

The Emir caused a feast to be arranged for the people on the day of his
arrival, several gigantic cauldrons being erected, on that occasion, on
the righistan, in which the princely pilar was being cooked. Into each
of these cauldrons was thrown a sack of rice, three sheep chopped up, a
large pan of mutton fat, enough to make five pounds of tallow candles,
and a small sack of carrots. Then ensued a scene of eating and drinking
beggaring all description.

An _arz_, that is a day for public audiences, was proclaimed for the
following day. I took advantage of this occasion to present myself in
the company of my friends to the Emir. As we were entering the interior
of the city, we were startled to find ourselves stopped by a Mehrem,
who gave us to understand that his Badevlet (majesty) wished to see me
alone, without my companions. My friends were this time of my opinion,
that this message boded ill to me. But what was to be done but to follow
the Mehrem to the palace. After being made to wait for about an hour I
was conducted into a room where I found the Emir reclining on a mattress
of red cloth, amidst books and papers lying about. I recited a short
Sura, accompanying it with the usual prayer for the welfare of the
governing prince, and after saying amen, to which the Emir responded, I
sat down in close vicinity to him without having first received his
invitation to do so. The Emir was struck by my bold behaviour, which was
in fact in perfect keeping with the character of a dervish. He fixed his
eyes severely on mine as if wishing to embarrass me, and said:

"Hadji! I hear thou hast come from Roum to visit the graves of
Baha-ed-din and the other holy men of Turkestan?"

"Yes, takhsir (sir)! and, besides, to be edified by thy blessed beauty."

"Strange; and hast thou no other object in coming here from such distant
lands?"

"No, takhsir! It has ever been the warmest wish of my heart to visit
noble Bokhara and enchanting Samarkand, upon whose sacred ground, as is
justly observed by Sheikh Djelal, men should walk with their heads
rather than their feet. Besides, this is my only vocation, and I having
been roaming now through the world for many a day as a _djihangheste_"
(a wanderer through the world).

"How is this, a djihangheste with thy lame foot? This is very strange
indeed."

"Let me be thy victim, takhsir! (This phrase answers our "I beg your
pardon, sir") Thy glorious ancestor Timur--may he rest in peace--was
afflicted in the same way, and yet he became a _djihanghir_" (a
conqueror of the world).

Having bantered me in this preliminary conversation, the Emir inquired
what sort of impression Bokhara and Samarkand had made upon me. My
answers, which I took occasion to interlard with copious citations of
Persian poetry, seemed to make a favourable impression upon the Emir,
who was a mollah himself and spoke Arabic pretty well; but I was not
altogether sure yet of my success with him. After the audience had
lasted for a quarter of an hour he summoned a servant, and telling him
something in a cautious undertone he bade me follow the servant.

I quickly rose from my sitting posture and followed as I had been bid.
The servant led me through a number of yards and halls, whilst my mind
was at the time cruelly agitated by fears and misgivings as to my fate;
my perplexed imagination conjuring up pictures of horror and seeing
myself already travelling on the road to the rack and that dreadful
death which was ever present to my mind. My guide showed me, after a
good deal of wandering about, into a dark room, conveying to me by a
sign that I should expect him here. I stood still, in what state of mind
any one can guess. I counted the moments with feverish excitement--when
the door opened again. A few seconds yet of suspense and the servant
approached at last, and by the light of the opening door I saw him
holding in his hand, instead of the frightful instruments of the
executioner, a parcel carefully folded up. In it I found a highly
ornamental suit of clothing, and an amount of money destined for my
onward journey, sent to me as a present by the Emir.

As soon as I obtained possession of the parcel I hastened away to my
companions, wild with joy at my escape. They were quite as glad of my
success as I myself had been. I subsequently learned that Rahmet-Bi had
sent the Emir an equivocating report about me, in consequence of which I
was received with diffidence at first by the Emir, but succeeded in
dissipating his mistrust, thanks to the glibness of my tongue.

My fellow-hadjis now advised me to leave Samarkand at once, and not even
to sojourn at _Karshi_, but to cross over as quickly as possible to the
other side of the Oxus, and await there in the midst of the hospitable
_Ersari-Turkomans_ the arrival of the caravan bound for Herat. I took
their advice. The hour of parting was at hand. I feel my pen is too
feeble to give an adequate picture of the parting scene. For six months
we had been sharing in all the dangers connected with travelling in the
desert; we had in common defied robbers, borne the raging elements, and
braved hunger and thirst. No wonder then that the barriers of position,
age and nationality were all broken down, and that we had come to look
on ourselves as one family. It may be easily imagined with what heavy
hearts we looked forward to the sad moment when we should have to
separate. There is hardly anything more painful to the heart of a true
man than to see those ties severed which common hardships, the exchange
of mutual acts of friendship and devotion, have firmly knit together.
And mine, especially, I own it, nearly broke at the thought of the
double-dealing I had to practise upon these friends of mine--the best I
had in the world, who had preserved my life--even in these last moments
leaving them in the dark as to my identity. But those who know the
fanaticism of the Moslems, and the danger I should have exposed myself
to by divulging the truth even at the moment of farewell, will surely
find no fault with my reserve.



XXV.

FROM SAMARKAND TO HERAT.


I did not remain long with my new fellow-travellers from the Khanate of
Kokhand. But I attached myself all the more closely to a young mollah
from Kungrat by the name of Ishak, who wished to go with me to Mecca. He
was a kind-hearted youth, as poor as myself, and looking upon me as his
master, he was always ready to serve and oblige me.

The road from Samarkand follows the direction of the road to Bokhara up
to the hill whence we saw the city for the first time. The next day
found us already in the desert. In truth, however, compared to the other
deserts through which I had passed, it might have been more fitly
denominated an extensive grassy plain or a prairie. One meets here
everywhere with herdsmen, owing to the numerous wells around which
nomadic Uzbegs have their tents erected. The wells are for the most part
very deep, and near them are tanks forming reservoirs for water, of
stone or wood, at which the cattle are watered. To avoid the fatiguing
labour of drawing water from the wells with buckets which are
exceedingly small, the herdsmen attach the rope of the bucket to the
saddle of a mule, passing it over a pulley, making thus the mule perform
the work of drawing water. Quite a picturesque scene is presented by
such a well, the flocks of sheep wandering or resting near it with their
serious shepherds, and I was forcibly reminded by it of similar sights
in the Lowlands of Hungary. On the second day after our departure we met
a caravan coming from Karshi, near one of the wells. One of this
caravan, a young woman who had been sold by her husband to an old
Tadjik, and had discovered the infamous transaction after she reached
the desert, was tearing her hair, bitterly wailing and crying, and upon
catching sight of me she frantically rushed up to where I stood and
exclaimed: "My hadji, thou hast read books: where is it written that a
Mussulman may sell his wife, the mother of his children?" In vain I told
the Tadjik that to do so was to commit a grievous sin, he only
composedly smiled; the judge at Karshi apparently not having shared my
views, the buyer felt quite sure as to the validity of the bargain.

We proceeded but slowly owing to the excessive heat, and it took two
days and three nights to reach _Karshi_. Nakhsheb was the ancient name
of Karshi, and as a city it ranks second in the Khanate of Bokhara in
extent and commercial importance. I went in search of an Uzbeg by the
name of Ishan Hassan, to whom my friends had given me a letter of
introduction. I found him and was very cordially received by him. He
advised me to buy an ass, cattle being very cheap in Karshi, and to
purchase with my remaining money knives, needles, thread, glass beads,
Bokhara-made pocket-handkerchiefs, and particularly carnelians brought
here from India, and to trade with these articles amongst the nomadic
people we should meet along our road. All the hadjis do the same thing.
In exchange for a needle or a couple of glass beads you get bread and
melons enough to last a whole day. I saw that the good man was right,
and went on the very same day with the Kungrat mollah to make the
intended purchases. One half of my khurdjin was full of my manuscripts,
mostly of literary and historical contents, which I bought in the bazaar
of Bokhara; the other half was used by me as a storehouse for my wares,
and thus I became at once an antiquarian, a dealer in fashionable
articles, a hadji and a mollah, deriving an additional source of income
from the sale of benedictions, nefesses, amulets, and similar wonderful
articles.

After a stay of three days I left, in company of the mollah Ishak and
two other hadjis, for Kerki, about fifty-six miles distant from Karshi.
After three days' travelling we reached the Oxus in the morning, at a
place where there was a small fort on our side of the shore, and on the
opposite side on a steep height the frontier fort surrounded by the
small town of _Kerki_. The Oxus flowing between the two forts is here
nearly twice the width of the Danube near Budapest, but owing to its
rapid current, which drove us considerably out of our course, it took us
fully three hours to cross over. The boatmen were very clever, and would
not accept anything of us for ferrying us over. But scarcely had we
placed our feet on the shore when the _deryabeghi_ (the river officer)
of the governor of Kerki stopped us, accusing us of being runaway slaves
intending to return to Persia, and compelling us to follow him
immediately with all our luggage and things to the castle of the
governor. My surprise and terror may be easily imagined. Three of my
companions whose speech and features at once betrayed their origin were
allowed to go free before long. I did not fare quite so well; things
would not pass off so smoothly with me, they making all kinds of
objections; but finally I flew into a rage, and exchanging the
Turco-Tartar dialect I had been using for that of Constantinople, I
emphatically insisted either upon having my passport shown to the Bi
(governor) at once, or upon being taken into his presence.

At the noise I made the _toptchubashi_ (an officer of artillery), who
was of Persian origin, said something in a whisper to the deryabeghi.
Then he took me aside, and telling me that he had gone several times to
Stambul, from Tebriz, his native city, he knew very well persons
belonging to Roum, and I might be perfectly quiet, as no harm would
befall me.

Every stranger must submit to this searching investigation; for as
slaves who had become free and were returning home had to pay a tax of
two gold pieces at the border, there were many of them who resorted to
all kinds of subterfuges and disguises to steal unrecognized over the
frontiers. The servant who had taken my passport to the governor soon
returned, not only bringing back with him my papers, but a present of
five tenghis which the governor had sent me.

I was very sorry to learn that Mollah Zeman, the chief of the caravan
going from Bokhara to Herat, was not expected to make his appearance
before the lapse of eight or ten days. I consequently left in company of
Mollah Ishak to go amongst the Ersari-Turkomans living in the
neighbourhood. Here I entered once the house of Khalfa Niyaz, an ishan
who had inherited sanctity, science, and authority from his father. He
had a cloister of his own, and had obtained a special license from Mecca
to recite sacred poems. In reading, he always had a cup filled with
water placed by his side, and would spit into the water whenever he had
finished reading a poem. The saliva thus permeated by the sanctity of
the words he would then sell as a miraculous panacea to the highest
bidder.

As we had an abundance of leisure, my faithful mollah and I, we visited
the Lebab-Turkomans (viz., Turkomans on the bank). We were given
quarters in the yard of an abandoned mosque. In the evening hours the
Turkomans would bring with them one of their poetical tales, or a poem
out of their collections of songs, and I was in the habit of reading it
out aloud to them. It was delightful to have them sitting around me in
the stilly night within view of the Oxus rolling onward, they listening
to me with rapt attention while I read about the brave feats of one of
their heroes.

One evening the reading had lasted as late as midnight. I was quite
fagged out, and, forgetting to heed the advice I had been frequently
given not to lie down near a building in ruins, I stretched my weary
limbs close to a wall and very soon fell asleep. I might have slept for
an hour when I was suddenly roused by a painful sensation. I jumped up
screaming; I thought a hundred poisoned needles had run into my leg. The
spot from which the pain proceeded was a small point near the big toe of
my right foot. My cries roused an old Turkoman, lying nearest to me,
who, without asking any questions, immediately broke out in the
following comforting apostrophe: "Unhappy hadji! thou wast bitten by a
scorpion, and that at the unlucky season of the _saratan_ (canicular or
dog days). God have mercy on thee!" Saying these words he seized my
foot, and tightly swathing my foot so as almost to sever it from the
heel, he immediately applied his mouth to the wounded spot, and began to
suck at it with such a violence that I felt it passing through my whole
body. Another soon took his place, and re-swathing my foot twice they
left me to my fate, with the sorry comfort that it would be decided
before next morning's prayers whether it would please Allah to free me
from my pain or from the vanities of this world. Although I was quite
stupefied with being thrown about, and the burning and stinging pain
which kept on increasing in intensity, my memory still reverted in a
dull, mechanical way to a recollection of the act that the scorpions of
Belkh were known in ancient times for their venomous nature. My distress
was rendered more intolerable by my fears, and that I had given up every
hope during the many hours of suffering was proved by the circumstance
that, totally unmindful of my incognito, I had broken out into such
moans and plaintive exclamations as seemed to be quite outlandish to the
Tartars, who, as I subsequently learned, were in the habit of bursting
out into shouts of joy on an occasion of this kind. In a few seconds the
pain had darted from the tips of my toes to the top of my head, rushing
up and down like a stream of fire, but being confined nevertheless to my
right side only. The tortures I was suffering beggar all description,
and losing all further interest in life I dashed my head against the
ground reckless of all consequences, and seeking relief in death. This
action of suicidal violence was speedily remarked by the others, and
they, taking no heed of my remonstrance, tied me securely to a tree.
Thus I continued to be in a prostrate, half-fainting condition for
several hours, staring fixedly at the starry vault above me, whilst the
cold sweat of agony was gathering in heavy drops on my forehead. The
Pleiades were slowly moving towards the west, the beloved West, which I
despaired of ever seeing again. Being perfectly conscious I looked
forward to the hour of prayer with its sounds of devotion, or rather to
the dawn of day. Meanwhile gentle sleep stole over me, sealing my
burning eyelids, but I was soon roused from my beneficent slumbers by
the monotonous: "La Illah, il Allah!"

When I awoke and began to arrange my ideas I thought I felt a slight
cessation of the pain. The burning and stinging sensation grew less and
less violent, and about the time that the sun had risen to the height of
a lance, I could attempt to stand on my foot, although very feebly and
clumsily yet. My companions assured me that the morning prayer had the
effect of exorcising the devil which had crept into my body by means of
the bite of the scorpion. Of course I dared not suggest any doubts as to
this pious version of my cure, but was too well pleased under any
circumstances to have got over this dreadful night, the horrors of which
will be ever present in my memory.

After having waited for many weary days for the arrival of the caravan
from Herat we were at length informed that the looked-for event was near
at hand. I immediately hastened to Kerki, in the hope of starting at
once. But my hopes in this direction were doomed to disappointment.
There were about forty freed slaves from Persia and Herat in the caravan
of Mollah Zeman, who were now on their way home under his dearly-paid
protection. In journeying alone these poor freedmen run the risk of
being pounced upon and sold into slavery again. These former slaves
returning home must pay toll here, and this gave occasion to a great
deal of noisy demonstration, the kervanbashi having stated the number of
slaves at a lower figure than was warranted by the actual facts, whilst
the officer of customs claimed toll for others not slaves, setting down
every person who was not known to him to be free as a slave, and
demanding toll for him. And as neither of them would yield, but stood
up in defence of their respective allegations, the hubbub and anger
seemed to be in a fair way of never subsiding. It took the entire day to
examine the goods, the men, the camels, and the asses. We left at last,
not, however, without the escort of the officer of the customs, who kept
a vigilant eye upon the caravan lest some straggling travellers might
join it at some by-path. He did not leave us until we had crossed the
frontiers of Bokhara, and had proceeded on our journey through the
desert.

At the first station I gathered that there were a great number of
people, besides myself, in the caravan who were longing to set their
eyes on the southernmost border of Central Asia. The freedmen appeared
to seek our company by preference, that is, the company of the hadjis,
and by their joining us I had occasion to hear of truly affecting
instances of the misery of some. Near me was sitting a grayheaded old
man who had just ransomed his son, aged thirty, in Bokhara, and was
taking him back to the arms of a young wife and infants. He had to
purchase his son's freedom by sacrificing all he had, the ransom
amounting to fifty gold pieces. "I shall rather bear poverty," he said,
"than see my son in chains." His home was in Khaf, in Eastern Persia.
Not far from me there was lying a muscular man, whose hair had turned
gray with mental agony. A few years ago the Turkomans had carried away
into slavery his wife, his sister, and six children. For a whole year he
had wearily to drag his steps through Khiva and Bokhara before he could
find a trace of them. When he had succeeded in tracking them a heavy
blow was in store for him. His wife and the two smallest of the children
as well as his sister had perished from the hardships of slavery, and of
the four remaining children he could purchase the freedom of only the
two younger ones; the two elder ones, girls, who had blossomed into
beautiful lasses, being rated too high and above the amount of ransom he
could afford to pay. There was a group of an aged woman and a young man
that attracted our attention. They were mother and son, he a young man
from Herat, and she fifty years old. He had purchased the liberty of his
mother. Two years before, as she was travelling in the company of her
husband and eldest son, they were attacked and made prisoners. Her
husband and son were massacred before her eyes, and she was sold into
slavery at Bokhara for twenty gold pieces. When her younger son found
her and offered to ransom her, they doubled the amount as soon as they
recognized him as a son, rapaciously speculating in his filial
affection. Let me mention the case of another unfortunate man who had
been sold into slavery about eight years previously, and was ransomed
after about six years of slavery by his father. On their way home when
but a few hours' march from their native town, both father and son were
fallen upon by Turkomans, who immediately carried them to Bokhara to be
sold. Now they had both regained their freedom and were returning home.

We were following a southern course, through an interminable level plain
destitute of vegetation with the exception of a species of thistle,
growing sparsely, which furnishes a sweet morsel for the camel. It is
rather wonderful how these animals will pull off with their tongues and
swallow a plant the mere touch of which is apt to wound the most callous
hand.

At Maimene, the caravan camping outside the town, I put up at the
_tekkie_ (convent) of one Ishan Eyub, to whom I had been given a letter
of introduction by Hadji Salih. The following day I set up my shop at
the corner of a street. My stock of wares, however, was quite reduced
owing to the fact that I had not replenished it since the first
purchases I had made. One of my companions came up to me and said in a
tone of warning and compassion: "Hadji Reshid, half of thy knives,
needles, and glass beads, thou hast already eaten up, the other half,
together with thy ear, will follow in a short time; what will then
become of thee?" The man was perfectly right, but what was I to do? My
future caused me many an anxious thought, the Persian border being far
away, with winter approaching. I comforted myself very soon, however,
with the remembrance of my former experiences amongst the Uzbegs, whom I
knew never to allow a hadji or a beggar to leave their door
empty-handed. I was sure of bread and fruit, and, now and then, even of
a gift of some piece of clothing; and with these I hoped to be able to
get on in my journey.

No difficulties about the tolls retained us at Maimene, but the
kervanbashi and more prominent merchants of our caravan put off their
departure on account of their own private affairs. They wished to attend
two or three horse fairs at least, the prices of these animals being
very low here. The horses are brought to the fair by the Uzbegs and
Turkomans of the environs, and are carried from here to Herat, Kandahar,
Kabul, and often to India. Horses which I saw sold in Persia for thirty
to forty gold pieces apiece, could be bought here at one hundred to one
hundred and sixty tenghis (a tenghi being about ninepence).

Our road now lay continuously through mountainous regions. Upon reaching
the border of Maimene, we were confronted again by a Yuzbashi,
performing the office of frontier's guard, who levied upon us an
additional toll under the title of whip money, this being the third toll
we had to pay within the Khanate of Maimene. A merchant from Herat to
whom I complained about this extortion, observed to me: "Thank God we
are called upon to pay toll only. In former days travelling in these
parts was most dangerous, for the Khan himself was plundering the
caravans."

A troop of _Djemshidis_ who were sent by the Khan from _Bala Murgab_,
for our protection against predatory tribes through whose territories we
were to pass, joined us at the frontier, forming our escort. I was
informed that our caravan had not been exposed to such imminent danger
as awaited them here during the whole journey from Bokhara. We kept our
eyes open, carefully glancing to the right and left, and cautiously
surveying every little hill we passed. Thus we journeyed on in the
greatest suspense, but it was in all probability owing to the size of
the caravan and its watchfulness that we escaped being attacked.

At the time the caravan left Herat for Bokhara it was spring, and Herat
was then besieged by the Afghans under Dost Mohammed. Six months had
passed since the news of the capture of the city; its pillage and
destruction had reached us long ago, and the intense longing of those of
our caravan who were from Herat to see again their families, friends,
and houses may therefore be easily imagined. We were, nevertheless, made
to wait a whole day at Kerrukh, one of the border villages of Herat,
until the officer of the Customs, who had come already upon us in the
morning, had, in the overbearing and supercilious manner peculiar to the
Afghans, finished making up, with a great deal of ado, an extensive list
of every traveller, animal, and each piece of goods we had with us. I
had imagined Afghanistan to be a country with somewhat of a regular
administration; nay, I had fondly hoped that my sufferings would
terminate here, and that I might dispense henceforth with the
assumption of the character of a dervish. Alas! I was sadly mistaken.
Nowhere had we been treated in such a brutal manner as we were treated
here by the Afghan Customs collectors. We had to pay duty on the very
clothes we wore, with the exception of the shirt. On my ass I had to pay
a duty of six krans, and he who was not able to pay had simply all his
things confiscated.

Towards evening, when the plundering was over, the governor of Kerrukh,
who has the rank of a major, made his appearance in order that he might
examine us. At me he took a good long look, evidently being struck by my
foreign features, and immediately summoned the kervanbashi to make some
whispered inquiries about me. He then called me to come near him, made
me sit down, and treated me with marked politeness. Whilst talking with
me he studiously turned the conversation on Bokhara, smiling always in a
mysterious way as he did so. But I remained faithful to the part I had
assumed. On taking leave he wanted to shake hands with me in the English
fashion, but I anticipated the motion of his hand by raising mine as if
in the act of bestowing a _fatiha_ upon him, whereupon he left me with a
laugh. We were finally allowed to leave Kerrukh, and entered Herat on
the following morning after a toilsome journey of six weeks.



XXVI.

IN HERAT AND BEYOND IT.


The large, flourishing valley, intersected by canals, in the centre of
which the city of Herat is situated, is called _Djolghei-Herat_ (the
Plain of Herat). I saw with surprise how rapidly the wounds inflicted by
war had healed. But two months ago savage Afghan hordes had been camping
in the neighbourhood, trampling down and laying waste everything, and
behold! to-day the fields and vineyards are boasting of their intensest
verdure, and the meadows are covered with a luxuriant sward dotted all
over with field-flowers, making them look like embroidered work.

We entered by the gate of _Dervaze-Irak_ (viz., the Gate of Irak). The
gate itself and the houses surrounding it were one mass of ruins. Not
far from the gate, in the interior of the city, was a lofty
fortification, which, owing to its phenomena, was more particularly
exposed to the hostile missiles, and now there was nothing left of it
but a heap of stones. The wooden framework from door and window was
gone, it having been used up as fuel, of which there was great scarcity
in the city during the siege. In the deserted openings of the houses
were seen naked Afghans and Hindoos squatting, worthy keepers of a city
in ruins. At every step I advanced the desolation became more appalling;
entire quarters of the town were empty and deserted. The bazaar alone,
or rather that part of it covered with the cupola, which has withstood
many a siege, presented an interesting picture of life characteristic of
the confluence of Persia, India, and Central Asia at this place. It was
a wonderful sight to see the astonishing variety of types, complexions,
and costumes amongst Afghans, Hindoos, Turkomans, Persians, and Jews.
The Afghan, whose national costume consists of a shirt, drawers, and a
dirty blanket, assumes sometimes the English red coat, but on his head
he wears the never-failing picturesque Hindoo-Afghan turban. The more
civilized affect in part the Persian dress. Arms are the universal
fashion; private citizens as well as soldiers seldom come to the bazaar
without sword and shield, and persons wishing to look distinguished
carry with them a whole arsenal. The Afghan is both in appearance and
demeanour the rudest and most savage, every one passing him with a great
show of humility, but never did people hate a conqueror more intensely
than those of Herat the Afghan. The surging, variegated crowd before me
was pleasant to look at. There were moments when, seeing Afghan soldiers
in English uniforms and with shakos on their heads, I thought that after
all I was now in a country where I had nothing to fear from Islamite
fanaticism, and that I might drop the mask which had become intolerable
to me. But only for a moment, for upon reflection I could not help
remembering that I was in the East, where appearances are most
deceptive.

As I mentioned before, my purse was quite empty. I tried everything in
my power to procure myself the necessary travelling expenses. I waited
upon the reigning prince, Serdar Mehemmed Yakub Khan, a youth sixteen
years old, and the son of the then king of Afghanistan. The king had
entrusted this youth with the government of the conquered province, he
having had to hasten to Kabul where his own brothers were plotting to
deprive him of his throne. The young prince was residing in a palace
very much battered by the siege. He was dressed in a uniform with a
high-standing collar, and would sit, most of the time, in an arm-chair
at the window: and when wearied with the great number of petitioners
which it was his official duty to receive, he would order military
drills and manœuvres to be executed on the place below his window and
inspect them from there.

As I was stepping into the courtyard of the palace in the company of
Mollah Ishak, the military drill was just at its height. Near the door
of the reception hall a crowd of servants, military men and petitioners
were lounging. Thanks to my huge turban and pilgrim-like appearance
every one made way for me, and I could reach the hall without
interference from anybody. When I stepped into the hall I found the
prince seated as usual in his arm-chair, with the Vizier on his right
side, whilst ranged along the wall were standing other officers,
mollahs, and people from Herat. In front of the prince were the keeper
of the seal and four or five servants. As became my position as a
dervish I entered with the customary salutation, and exciting no sort of
comment by it, I went up straight to the prince, seating myself between
him and the Vizier, after having pushed aside the latter, a stout
Afghan, to make room for me. There was a general laugh at this
intermezzo, but I kept my countenance and immediately raised my hand to
recite my customary prayer. The prince looked at me fixedly during the
prayer. I observed an expression of surprise and hesitation stealing
over his face, and after I had said "Amen," and the whole company
smoothing their beards responded to it, he jumped up from his chair, and
pointing at me with his finger, he exclaimed, laughing and yet half
astonished, "I swear by God, thou art an Englishman!"

A loud burst of laughter followed the original remark of the young
prince, but he, in no wise disconcerted, approached, stood up in front
of me, and then clapping his hands like a child who had guessed right at
something he added, "Let me be thy victim! confess thou art an Ingiliz
in disguise." But I now pretended to act as if the joke had been carried
too far for my forbearance, and said: "_Sahib mekum_ (stop this); dost
thou know the proverb--'he who even in fun takes a true believer to be
an unbeliever, becomes one himself?' Give me rather something for my
_fatiha_ that I may continue my journey." My grave looks and the
citation made by me somewhat perplexed the young prince, and sitting
down again, half ashamed of himself, he excused himself by saying that
he had never seen a dervish from Bokhara with such features. I answered
him that I was not from Bokhara but from Constantinople; and having
shown him as a proof my passport and spoken to him about his cousin
Djelaleddin Khan, who had visited Mecca and Constantinople in 1860 and
met with a most distinguished reception on the part of the Sultan, he
seemed to be perfectly satisfied. My passport passed from hand to hand,
everybody approved of its contents, and the prince giving me a couple
of krans called upon me to visit him again whilst I remained in Herat,
an invitation of which I did not fail to avail myself.[4]

     [Footnote 4: It was the same prince who afterwards
     succeeded his father Shir Ali Khan upon the throne of
     Kabul. In spite of having proved himself at the
     beginning of his career to be a valiant soldier, he
     nevertheless turned afterwards a cowardly man by
     participating in the murder of Sir Louis Cavagnari and
     the rest of the English officers who took part in the
     British Mission to Kabul.]

Time dragged on heavily while I was waiting for a caravan at Herat, and
I grew very impatient at the delay. There was a sad and depressing air
about the city, terror of the savage conqueror could be read in every
face, and the recent siege and devastation continued to form the
ever-recurring topics of conversation. At length, on the 10th of
November, 1863, I left this entrance-gate to Central Asia, joining a
larger caravan going to Meshed, with which I was to accomplish the
remaining portion of my journey. The caravan consisted of two thousand
persons, half of whom were Hezares from Kabul who, for the most part
poor and miserable, were proceeding with their kith and kin on a
pilgrimage to the shrines of Shi-ite saints. The caravan forming thus a
large body of men, its members were subdivided again into smaller bands.
I was assigned to a troop of Afghans from Kandahar, who were dealing in
furs and indigo, and were conveying these articles of merchandise to
Persia.

I thought that I had emptied the cup of bitter sufferings to the very
dregs during my wandering through Central Asia, but it was reserved for
the journey from Herat to Meshed to convince me that there may be
miseries greater still than those I had already endured. I was utterly
destitute of money, of everything, and to satisfy my daily wants I was
thrown upon the charity of the Afghans and Tadjiks. The Tadjiks were
poor pilgrims, themselves but scantily supplied with the bare
necessaries of life. And as to the Afghans, their known avarice and
meanness of character might give me a dispensation from telling how hard
it was to excite their pity. I fared best when we happened to pitch our
tents near some inhabited village. In such a case my Tartar and I
divided the village between us; I would go in one direction and beg for
wood and fuel, whilst he would go in another begging for bread and
flour, and on meeting again we would exchange parts.

The inhabitants of this region, though very poor themselves, did not
turn a deaf ear to our appeals for charity. With food we were tolerably
supplied, poor and mean as it was in quality; but what caused us the
most terrible suffering was the bitter cold prevailing towards autumn in
this part of the world. Such was the effect of the cold cutting blasts
coming from the north-eastern plains that the intense cold would pierce
through the thickest cloak in which a person might wrap himself; and the
animals themselves came very near being benumbed by it. All the way from
Shebesh until we were two stations from Meshed, I had to pass the night
in the open air, lying on the hard frozen ground, in the ragged dervish
dress which I had on me, and which served the purposes of both pillow
and coverlet. Many a time I would not dare to close my eyes for fear of
freezing to death. I besought the hard-hearted Afghans to let me have
one of their spare horse blankets; with chattering teeth and in a most
piteous voice I vainly appealed for hours together to the cruel
barbarians bundled up in their warm fur skin cloaks. They only jeered at
me, saying, "Dance, hadji, and thou wilt get warm." The high plateaus of
Eastern Persia will for ever rank in my memory with the sand of the
deserts of Central Asia.

Near Kafir-Kale we met with a caravan coming from Meshed. From a member
of this caravan I learned that Colonel Dolmage, an English officer in
the Persian service, an old acquaintance of mine, was still residing in
Meshed, a piece of news which was very welcome to me. Ferimon was the
first village inhabited by Persians, and a warm stable made me forget
the sufferings of many a day past. At length, on the twelfth day after
our departure from Herat, the gilded cupolas of Imam Riza loomed up
before our eyes. We had reached the city of Meshed, for the sight of
which I had been longing.

Besides, in approaching Meshed, there were other motives--motives of
humanity--at play, which quickened my pulse and made my heart beat with
something of the regained dignity of a man who escapes from moral
slavery. In Meshed I was at length to be restored to myself; I was to
fling off, to some extent, the artful disguises with which, in fear of
life, limb and liberty, I had had to surround myself, to discard the
shameful rags which lowered me in my own estimation, to put an end to
the pitiful anxieties to which I had been continually exposed, and last
not least to exchange a life of hardship, discomforts and privations for
one of comparative ease and comfort. Nor did I entertain the usual
fears, which haunted me elsewhere, as to the reception I might meet at
the hands of the authorities; the governor of the province was an
enlightened prince, an uncle of the king of Persia, and under his
auspices the government was conducted, in appearance at least, more in
accordance with European ideas. To all these cheering reflections was
added the hope of meeting and embracing again, after all these weary
wanderings, an old friend of mine--perhaps the solitary European who had
pitched his tent so far east and was now living in Meshed. Under all
these combined impressions the very cupola, under which the mortal
remains of Imam Riza repose, blazing with its resplendent light far into
the outlying country, seemed to me a beacon which was to guide me to a
harbour of safety. I even caught the enthusiasm of the thousands of
people who were flocking to the tomb of the saint, and could almost
imagine myself one of the pilgrims who hail with emotions of unutterable
thankfulness and pious joy the sight of the holy place, after having
wearily wandered over the immense distances from their several homes.

It may not be uninteresting to know who this Imam Riza is, the renown of
whose sanctity has made such a lasting and deep impression upon the
minds of a large portion of the Eastern world. Of the twelve Imams he is
the eighth. He was a contemporary of the Caliph Maamun, a son of the
famous Harun el Rashid. This Caliph's envy and jealousy of Imam Riza was
roused by the general esteem in which he was held, and the unbounded
devotion which was shown to him by the sect of Shi-ites, then already
very numerous, but not daring yet to enter publicly into the area of
religious sectarianism. He was banished by the Caliph to Tus, a town in
the vicinity of the present site of Meshed. The banishment had not the
desired effect; in his abode of humiliation he became again the object
of general veneration, so the Caliph had poison administered to him in a
cup of wine, thus ridding himself of a dangerous and hated rival. The
memory of his name did not die with him; from a beloved leader of a sect
he rose to be a martyred saint. His death in exile seems to have
especially commended him to the imagination of the travelling public as
their patron saint; and he was honoured, in this, his quality, with the
title of Sultan al Gureba (Prince of Strangers).



XXVII.

IN MESHED.


Nature seemed to have put on her holiday garb as we were approaching the
city. The weather was splendid; it was one of those fine autumnal
mornings which are so common in the Eastern part of Persia. The road
leading to the city passes through a bare, almost, level, tract, its
monotony being relieved only here and there by a few hills. The contrast
which the city presented to the unromantic aspect of the environs was
all the more striking. With its bright and flashing cupolas, and
surrounded by gardens, it lay there like a rich and glittering gem
embedded in a rare setting of leafy verdure. My gaze was fixed upon the
buildings that seemed to detach themselves as we approached from the
confused mass presented at a distance. For the time being I was utterly
lost in thought, careless of the movements of the caravan, and even my
looking at the city was more in a dreamy vacant way than for the purpose
of gratifying my curiosity. The traveller had for once merged in the
human being; casting aside all interest in historical reminiscences, not
even caring to recall the names of the great saints whose splendid tombs
formed the attraction of the place, I fairly rioted in the consciousness
of being able now to turn my back upon the black and ugly experiences of
the past, and looked forward to the attractive vista of a bright future.

I was roused from these pleasant reveries by our entrance through the
Dervaze Herat (Herat Gate). We passed along the wide and long street of
Pajin Khiaban (Lower Alley), and proceeded towards the Sahni Sherif (the
Holy Vestibule). A very pleasing sight is offered by the broad canal,
winding through the city, its banks studded with trees which spread a
pleasant shade; indeed this is a feature rendering Meshed one of the
most attractive cities in Iran. The concourse of people, representing
all the nations of Asia who are adherents of the Shi-ite faith, gives a
most striking character to the streets, which are pulsating with
stirring life. Every variety of costume prevalent in Persia and the
whole of Eastern Asia meet the eye wherever you look. It does not take
long to realize the fact that Meshed is one of the strongholds of
Shi-itism. The proud Sunnites, the Turkoman and Uzbeg, walk about with
an humble and apologetic air as if to beg pardon of those whom he
oppressed in his own home; whilst the men of Bokhara, Hezare, India and
Herat are treading proudly and lightly on a ground which seems to
inspire them with a consciousness of their superiority--their forms
erect, their carriage haughty and independent and their looks scornful
and defiant. The Sunnite is by no means, however, exposed to any danger
of retaliation on the part of those whose compatriots have often been
the victims of his ferocity. In Iran he is safe, but he cannot shake
off a guilty sense of the merited retribution his cruelty amply
deserves, and the impress of this unpleasant consciousness betrays
itself in his movements and demeanour.

Especially during the bright days of autumn the streets are crowded with
a dense mass of humanity, rolling in an endless stream along the
thoroughfares, and in vain does the eye attempt to find a resting-place
amid the varied confusion of the spectacle, nor is it possible in the
throng of conflicting sights to treasure up some distinct recollection
which might shape itself into a reminiscence at some future day. The
neighbourhood of the magnificent building of the Imam for several
hundred paces forms the centre of most bewildering sights and sounds.
Standing beside their booths or stands, or in front of their shops, on
both sides of the street, on the banks of the canal, and moving through
the streets, are to be seen and heard a multitude of men, active,
scrambling, energetic, carrying their wares on their heads, shoulders,
or in their hands, pushing through the crowd, offering them vociferously
for sale, and producing a strange din and noise whilst they recommend
them to buyers with their sing-song cries. It seems utterly impossible
to elbow your way through this compact mass of humanity, and yet there
is a sort of order in this wild confusion, for an actual block but
seldom occurs. This scene of confusion is only an apparent one,
especially to the unfamiliar eye of the European, who cannot separate
order from quiet, for an attempt to push your way through the throng is
attended with no evil consequences or harm; every one is sure to reach
safely the place he is bound for. This bustling life, however, was quite
agreeable to me after the experience of the dull and stolid constraint
so characteristic of the cities of Turkestan which I had lately seen.

I now wished to meet as soon as possible my English friend, Colonel
Dolmage, of whom I spoke before. First of all I entered a caravansary in
order to wash myself, and to put in some kind of decent order my
tattered toilet. This done, the next thing was to find the house where
my friend lived. It is always a ticklish thing to go about in Meshed
inquiring after the whereabouts of a Frengi, but it becomes immeasurably
so in the case of a person like me--who bore about him the unmistakable
garb, gait and mien of a hadji--undertaking to do it. By dint of
perseverance, and much ingenious cross-questioning I stood at last in
front of his house. Almost overcome with emotion I knocked at the door.
I heard footsteps approaching, and a moment later a servant opened the
door. The portal was as quickly re-shut in my face, for the servant just
deigning to glance at me, overwhelmed me with a volley of oaths, and
slammed the door. My emotion disappeared in the twinkling of an eye, and
angry and impatient at this unexpected rebuff, I vigorously set to
rapping at the door again. The servant reappeared, and this time I gave
him no opportunity for parley or remark, but went past him into the
court without vouchsafing a solitary word of explanation to him. The man
was quite dumbfounded with what seemed to him my impertinence, but
recovering himself soon, he asked me roughly what I, a hadji, wanted
with his master, who, as I knew, was an unbeliever. I very emphatically
told him that this did not concern him, but that he should without delay
advise his master that a stranger from Bokhara wished to see him.

Whilst the servant was gone, I leisurely found my way into a room, on
entering which I was struck with the sight of the furniture, which
vividly recalled European comfort and civilization. The furniture was
quite plain, merely a table and chairs, but to my unaccustomed eye they
looked like an epitome of all the things towards which my orphaned heart
was warming. Yes, these lifeless, homely objects of daily use seemed
sanctified to me, and I stood gazing at them as if they were things of
life. A newspaper on the table, the _Levant Herald_, caught my eyes
next, and to seize it and devour its contents was the work of a moment.
How many things had happened since I had a newspaper in my hands! Every
item of news, the humblest and that of the highest political importance,
possessed an equally intense interest for me, and immersed in the
perusal of its columns I even forgot Colonel Dolmage, who had softly
entered and was now standing before me. Dressed in a European uniform, a
fine specimen of British manhood, he looked at me silently, searchingly,
but I vainly watched for a look of recognition. Thus standing face to
face for a few moments, the situation became almost painful. To be sure
the ravages which hunger, thirst, cold, anxiety, and the thousand trials
of the journey had made in my appearance, sadly altered my looks, and no
wonder the young colonel failed to recall in the ragged hadji before him
his former acquaintance. I broke in upon the silence by exclaiming in
English, "What, Colonel, do you not recognize me?" The familiar voice
dispelled like a charm his uncertainty as to who I was, and in an
instant we were locked in a close embrace. He now remembered everything,
knew even something by hearsay of the perilous journey I had ventured
upon, and, seeing the pitiful condition I was in, tears of manly
compassion rose to the young officer's eyes.

Distinctions of class, profession, or nationality, entering so largely
into European life, separating man from man, lose their hold upon
Europeans meeting in the distant East. The great West, seen at that
distance, becomes their common country; they are drawn together by the
bond of common views, feelings and modes of thought which obliterate the
artificial lines of nationality--nay, they feel for, and treat each
other as only blood relations and brothers would in Europe. Colonel
Dolmage's conduct towards me illustrated this in a conspicuous manner.
His very first question, accompanied by a look of almost tender
sympathy, "For God's sake, what have you been doing? what has happened
to you?" made me feel like a long-lost brother who had found his way
home again. I saw the terrible alterations and the sad havoc which
hardships had made in my appearance reflected in his questions and
accompanying looks. He was a most sympathizing listener to the story of
my late experiences, and it was rather late in the evening when I rose
to leave him.

Colonel Dolmage proved my staunch friend during the four weeks I stayed
in Meshed, and although I dare say I occasioned him no little trouble, I
found him unflagging in his zeal for my welfare. Not only did his kind
offices largely contribute to making my stay in Meshed an exceedingly
pleasant one but to his generosity and active friendship I was chiefly
indebted for the means which enabled me to proceed on my journey with
renewed vigour and a cheerful mind. And no matter what unpleasantnesses
the interest he bore me drew upon him, his invariable good humour and
friendly conduct to me remained unaltered.

Upon my arrival in Meshed, after having visited Colonel Dolmage, I felt,
above all, the necessity of recuperating somewhat before turning my
attention to the remarkable sights of the city. The first few days,
therefore, I entirely devoted to rest, a species of _dolce far niente_
which did infinite good to both body and mind, invigorating the one and
brightening the other. After my few days' rest I returned with redoubled
interest to the main duty of a traveller, to see, observe, inquire, and
remember. Nor is there any other city in Eastern Persia abounding in
such a variety of curiosities as may be seen here. Indeed I was sorely
puzzled which way first to turn my attention. Rich in monuments
appealing alike to the student of history, the curious in holy things,
and the literary man--it is hard to know where to begin.

Probably led by the dervish instinct, developed in me by months of
devout pilgrimage, I found myself entering the Sahni Sherif, looking
about me with unfeigned admiration. The quick eyes of several loitering
Seids did not fail to discover the stranger and the Sunnite pilgrim in
me; and I was soon surrounded by them, each anxious to acquaint me with
the notable features and wonders of the holy tomb. That the sanctuary at
which Conolly, Fraser, Burnes, Chanikoff, nay, the official Eastwick
himself, endeavoured from a safe distance to steal a hasty glance, was
thrown open to me, and I was almost forced to enter it by the hungry
descendants of the Prophet, involuntarily recurred to my mind as I
declined the services proffered by them. For, truth to tell, the months
of compulsory pilgrimage I had gone through had strangely palled my
appetite for holy sights appertaining to Islamism, and I felt relieved
when I was left to myself to continue my observations. My attention was
next engaged by the monument lying to the left of the Sahn, and the
splendid mosque of Gowher Shah. The former of these two buildings
surpasses in magnificence and richness the most renowned tombs to which
the Mohammedan world perform their devout pilgrimages, not even
excepting those of Medina, Nedjef, Kerbela and Kum. It is inlaid with
gold inside and outside. Much of its former glory is gone, and many of
its richest ornaments have been carried away at different periods of
time by Uzbegs, Afghans and others. Since the monument was first erected
it has been several times plundered. Meshed suffered most at the hands
of Abdul Mumin, Khan of Bokhara, in 1587, when entering it at the head
of the Uzbegs, the city was sacked and its inhabitants carried into
slavery. It was laid waste again by the Afghans, and at different times
civil wars spread desolation within its very walls. The golden ball on
the top of the dome of the tomb, weighing four hundred pounds, is said
to have been removed by the impious hands of the sons of Nadir, and
several jewels of great price passed, in later times, into the
unhallowed possession of the rebel leader Salar. But in spite of the
ruthless conduct of foreign enemies and the violence of intestine war,
the tomb still harbours an immense amount of treasure. The walls of the
monument are fairly resplendent with jewels and trinkets of the rarest
kinds offered up to their favourite saint by the devout Shi-ites. The
eye is dazzled by the splendour of the pious gifts, consisting of
precious ornaments of every imaginable shape, a headgear shaped like a
plumed crest (_djikka_) of diamonds, a shield and sabre studded with
rubies and emeralds, massive candelabra of great weight, costly
bracelets, and necklaces of incalculable value.

The sight without and the sights within court a like amount of
admiration, and the balance is constantly preponderating, now in one,
now in the other direction. Without the cupola and the towers with their
rich incrustations of gold, within the massive fretted work and grating
of silver, the artistically stained windows, the construction of the
dome denoting a fine perception of refinement and elegance in form, and
rich Oriental carpet stuffs with diamonds and precious stones woven
into them, continually challenged and divided my wondering interest.
This cold and glittering accumulation of wealth was not wanting in the
touch of humanity which warmed it into a scene of life and bustle. The
groups within were not mere sight-seers, come to gratify their
curiosity. They were pious visitors at a holy shrine, with silent
devotion stamped upon their features, denoting ecstasy, enthusiasm, deep
contrition, humble self-abasement, and every shade of religious joy and
sadness, which none so well as the faces of Islamite devotees know how
to express or simulate; whilst to their lips rose muttered prayers,
interrupted by guttural yells, their chests were heaving with wild sobs.
Those who did not know their prayers by heart, or could not read from
the tablets inscribed with them, which were suspended from the grating,
had them repeated by the leader of the group they belonged to. All seem
anxious to propitiate the divinity by acts and prayers of praise or
humiliation in order to secure a place in the dwellings of the blessed
and happy. One all-absorbing feeling seems to inspire at such a moment
men of all races and classes alike, whether they be lords, merchants, or
servants--the cautious dwellers in Central Asia, the shrewd men from
Isfahan and Shiraz, the guileless Turks, or the ferocious Bakhtiaris and
Kurds. None are too high or too low for the performance of acts of pious
tenderness; the sons of Khans, the Mirzas and the poor peasants mingle
freely together; and it is a touching and sublime spectacle, indeed, to
see these sons of Asia, both rude and refined, pressing forward to kiss,
with unfeigned humility, the silver trellis, the padlock hanging from
the door of the grating and the hallowed ground itself.

Of the mosque of Gowher Shah, which I visited next, the Persians say
with great justice, that whilst the monument of Imam Riza is more
gorgeous, the mosque far surpasses it architecturally. The mosque is
situated in the same court, opposite to the monument. The _kashi_ work
(glazed tiles) enters largely into the structure inside and outside, and
there is an artistic beauty about it which more than compensates for the
comparative absence of richer materials such as gold and silver. The
lofty portal is admirable, both for the elegance of its design, and the
rich colouring it derives from the many-hued and brilliant kashi work,
especially when lit up by the rays of the sun. The gate is of the same
style as those I saw in Herat and Samarkand.

Shaping my course after that of the numerous pilgrims and beggars, who
all went in the same direction on leaving this splendid building, I went
to the refectory of Imam Riza, or as the natives call it, _Ashbaz Khanei
Hazret_ (the kitchen of his Highness). The Hazret, so his Holiness is
entitled, _par excellence_, enjoys the reputation of being immensely
rich. He is very hospitable, and every new-comer has the choice of
becoming his guest; but this hospitality is limited in point of time to
seven days only. The wealthier pilgrims rarely take advantage of this
liberal arrangement, but the poorer classes eagerly avail themselves of
the privilege of boarding and lodging at his Highness's expense. The
convenience of the guest is cared for on a very large scale, and the
vast machinery of baths and caravansaries, boarding-houses and
soap-boiling houses, of which his Highness is the owner, is put in
motion in order to satisfy the various wants of the strangers flocking
to the Hazret. I could not resist the temptation of adding one more
experience to those for which I was indebted to my Oriental disguise. I
squatted down, unheeded in the midst of the crowd of hungry Shi-ite and
Sunnite pilgrims. Very soon large dishes of smoking rice were brought in
by a troop of servants. Rancid fat and damaged rice, of the kind of
which I had already collected reminiscences enough to last me for a
lifetime, made up the delicious dish, which gave me but a mean opinion
of the boasted riches of his Highness. I pretended to be as eager about
fishing out my share of it as any other, splashing about with my fist in
the plate, but thought it best to save my appetite for a more favourable
occasion.

The avarice and greediness, so characteristic of the Persians, induce me
to believe that their admiration for Imam Riza is owing, not so much to
the renown of his sanctity and the inviolable right of asylum belonging
to him, as to the vast and fabulous wealth of which he is supposed to be
the owner.

An accident led me to discover the precarious condition in which the
Jews were living in Meshed. I met one day in the streets of Meshed a
former fellow-traveller of mine, on my journey from Bokhara. As he was
about to pass on without heeding me, I called out after him, knowing him
to be a Jew, "Yehudi, Yehudi." He hurriedly came up to me and said
confidentially in a low voice: "For God's sake, Hadji, do not call me a
Jew here. Beyond these walls I belong to my nation, but here I must play
the Moslem." It was the old story over again of persecution fanned by
bigotry and fanaticism, and taken advantage of by murderers and robbers.

The cause of their present distress and their fear of being recognized
as Jews dates from an occurrence which had happened several years ago in
Meshed. A Persian doctor, who was consulted by a Jewess about an
eruption on her hand, advised her to plunge her hands into the entrails
of a newly-slaughtered dog. She took his advice, and had one of those
unhappy street scavengers of the East killed in order to try the cure
prescribed to her. Unfortunately she had this done on the very day on
which the Mohammedans celebrated the Eidi Kurban (Feast of Sacrifice).
The rumour of it soon spread amongst the people; and the slaughtering of
the dog was interpreted as an impious mockery of the religious rites of
the true believers. The rapacity and murderous instincts of the mob
gladly seized this frivolous pretext wherewith to cloak their thirst for
the blood of the detested Jew, and their love of pillage. In an instant
the Jewish quarter of the city was overrun with a savage rabble,
rioting, robbing and murdering. Those that survived the fatal day had
their lives spared on condition of abjuring the faith of their fathers
and embracing that of their oppressors and persecutors. They yielded to
dire necessity, but in their hearts they remained Jews, conforming only
in outward appearance, as long as they had to stay in Meshed. Years had
passed since, and although the tolerant spirit, which began to prevail
under the benign influence of European interference, made the
Mohammedans relax somewhat their former rigour, the Jews still deemed it
more prudent to pass themselves off in Meshed for Mohammedans.

Among the ruins of Tus to the north of Meshed lies, according to the
belief of modern Persians, the tomb of one of the greatest of Iran's
bards, the tomb of Firdusi. Before leaving the city I made an excursion
to it. It was with feelings of sincere piety and admiration that I
approached the modest monument which commemorates the resting-place of
one of the greatest national poets in the world. In sixty thousand
verses he sang the history of his people, without admitting more than a
few foreign, that is Arabic, words into his narration. This wonderful
feat will be especially appreciated, if the fact is borne in mind that
Persian--which he wrote as well as the modern Persian does--contains
four words of Arabic origin to every six words purely Iranian. His
generous patriotism rebelled against the thought of employing the
language of the oppressors of his country. Not only as a poet, not only
as a passionate lover of his country, will Firdusi's memory live for
ever, but his exalted private character will always excite the
admiration of mankind. He was fearless and independent. As an instance
of his high-mindedness, it is told that Sultan Mahmud, the Ghazvenite,
sent him on one occasion the remuneration of thirty thousand drachms.
This was much less than the sum the Sultan had promised. He happened to
be in the bath when the gift was brought, and immediately scornfully
directed that the entire sum should be divided among the servants of the
bathing establishment. The Sultan, probably repenting of his parsimony,
subsequently sent the poet camels laden with treasure, but they came in
time only to meet his funeral procession. The gift was sent back to the
ungrateful monarch, the poet's proud daughter declining to accept of it.
The poet had left a sting in the memory of the Sultan, in a satire which
is remembered by the people to this day, which begins with the following
verse:

      "Oh! Sultan Mahmud, if thou fearest none, yet fear
      God!"

What an abyss is there between the modern Persians and their great
poet![5]

     [Footnote 5: Amongst the various great poetical
     compositions of Mohammedan Asia, we may boldly call the
     poems of Hafiz, Saadi, and Firdusi the household works
     of every enlightened or rather of every educated
     Mohammedan. As to the latter one, I have scarcely met
     with any Persian who was not conversant with the heroes
     of the great epic called the "Shah-Nameh;" and there is
     rarely a bath, a caravansary or any other public
     building, excepting mosques and colleges, which would
     not be adorned with primitive pictures, representing
     the heroic feats of Rustem, Zal and Kai Khosrau. The
     "Shah-Nameh" is the only popular history of the Iranian
     world, it is the mirror in the resplendent radiance of
     which the Persian and the Central Asian delight to find
     the glory of by-gone ages; and really, without having
     read the "Shah-Nameh," we shall never be able to
     realize the wonderful spirit of that Asiatic world
     which was superseded by Islam. A popularization of this
     masterly epic is therefore a great service done to the
     knowledge of the East. In Germany Rückert and Schack
     have tried this task; but owing to the form which they
     selected, their success was only a partial one, and the
     large public of the said country possesses but a
     fragmentary notion of the "Book of Kings."

     Quite recently there has come out in England "The Epic
     of Kings" (since re-published under the title of
     "Heroic Tales"), stories retold from Firdusi, by _Helen
     Zimmern_ (London: T. Fisher Unwin), which relates in
     delightfully written prose the chief and most moving
     stories referring to the great heroes of Iranian
     antiquity from the Shahs of old to the death of Rustem.
     Although she has written a paraphrase and not a
     translation, the author, by uniting a rare poetical
     gift with a true understanding of the East, has
     succeeded in rendering the great epic accessible to the
     large reading public, which can now taste this justly
     famous poetical production of the East, and which will
     certainly be thankful to Miss Zimmern for the rare
     enjoyment.]

Meanwhile I had been preparing at my leisure for the winter journey to
Teheran. The means for doing so had been furnished by the governor of
the place, who received me most affably, loaded me with presents and
overwhelmed me with marks of distinction. Teheran was still thirty days'
journey from Meshed, and so long a ride in winter was by no means a
pleasant prospect, yet my heart burned with delight as I rode out of the
city gates.



XXVIII.

FROM MESHED TO TEHERAN.


The impress of the character of the reigning sovereign leaves its mark
on everything in the kingdom of Persia; and so, in a certain limited
way, does the character of the governors for the time being of the
several provinces of that kingdom determine the comparative safety and
comfort of the highways. To travel from Meshed to Teheran is looked upon
as an enterprise demanding a staunch spirit, and the bravest man may
recoil from the dangers threatening him on that first portion of the
road through Khorassan, where Turkomans, Beloochees and Kurds are an
object of terror to all men, but more particularly to the cowardly
native of Persia. Sultan Murad Mirza, surnamed "The Sword of the
Empire," was governor of the province at the time I set out for Teheran.
In the flowery language of the country the praise was bestowed on him
that a child might with perfect security carry a plateful of ducats upon
the highways, without being molested. And, indeed, he was fully
deserving of the compliment implied in this high-flown saying, for there
was not in the whole kingdom a governor devoting a greater amount of
energy and talent than he did to render the public highways safe, and to
advance and encourage commerce and safe travelling.

My spirits rose high as I set out on my journey in the company of my
Tartar. Two routes from Meshed to Nishapur were open to me--one leading
over a mountainous tract, the other through a lower hilly country. I
chose the latter. As I passed out of the city, mounted on an active nag,
the horse of my Tartar being loaded with everything requisite for the
journey, I felt in an exceptionally cheerful humour. It was not merely
the pleasurable feeling of returning home which produced this effect.
The contrast between the journey now before me, furnished with all the
proper equipments, and that which I had made, suffering from all sorts
of privations amid the deserts of Turkestan, without doubt greatly added
to this feeling. We were continually meeting with caravans either of
pilgrims or of merchandise, proceeding towards or returning from the
holy city. On such occasions words of greeting are always exchanged. My
surprise at recognizing an old acquaintance in the leader of one of
these caravans may be easily imagined. He was a Shirazer, in whose
society I had two years before visited the ruins of Persepolis, Nakshi
Rustam, and that fair city which was the birthplace of the poet Hafiz.
To have travelled a long time with a man is in Asia looked upon as a
sort of relationship. The gossiping Shirazer was delighted to see me.
The caravan was obliged, whether or no, to submit to a quarter of an
hour's halt, while we seated ourselves on the sand to enjoy together the
friendly _kalian_ (Persian pipe). As its fragrant smoke rose before my
eyes, vivid pictures of the past, of the majestic monuments of bygone
civilizations, arose before my memory. How those recollections animated
me! Valerius in his chains, the majestic figure of the proud Shapur,
above him floating the form of the beneficent Ormuzd,--all those
magnificent bas-reliefs whirled kaleidoscope-like past my mind's eye;
but their charms were multiplied as I reflected that since I saw them, I
had seen, and left behind me, the classical realms of Bactria and
Sogdiana, which had inspired with terror the stout hearts of the
Macedonians of Alexander.

I was obliged to assure my Shiraz friend that I would speedily revisit
his native country, for it was not until I had soothed him with this
sort of promise that he would allow me to part from him. So cheerily did
I then go on my way that the first day's journey was not in the least
fatiguing to me, and by night we reached the station of _Sherif Abad_.
This was the first evening I spent as a well-equipped traveller. In my
previous travels in Turkestan I had first of all to gather firewood and
collect flour; I had to pronounce prayers and blessings as payment for
my night quarters; and I was always liable to be turned out tired and
hungry. Now, on the contrary, I was a great man. I rode proudly into the
_tchaparkhane_ (post-house), and with a loud voice called for lodgings;
for although I was still completely Oriental, so far as outward
appearances went, the postmaster could easily observe that he had to do
with one who had at his command a sufficiency of the sinews of war. And
what will not a Persian do for money? My Tartar prepared me an excellent
supper; rice, sugar, fat, meat--in a word, everything in abundance. The
eyes of my simple Uzbeg sparkled with joy as he thought of his former
poverty and looked on the abundance which surrounded him. If the supper
which he could prepare was not exactly fit to appear on the table of a
Lucullus, it was a very good one for a Persian wayside station.

We had before us as our next day's work, a distance of nine German miles
or thirty-six English miles to the next station, _Kademgiah_. Nine
fersakhs in Khorassan is a good deal, for there is a saying that in that
province the miles are as interminable as the chatter of women, and that
he who measured them must have done so with a broken chain. European
travellers, without exception, complain of the monotony and wearisome
character of the road. But what was that to me who had escaped from the
torments of Turkestan? Quite alone with my Tartar, and well armed and
well mounted, I now for the first time felt the charms of true
travelling. Little know they who coop themselves up amidst the heat of
July in close railway carriages, and find, perforce, delight in the
dusty, grimy countenance of the guard, what travelling really means. A
good saddle is better than all your stuffed cushions. Thereon a man
feels himself free and unconstrained. His bridle is his Bradshaw, his
sword is his law, his gun is the policeman who protects him, and though
he is an outlaw and fair game for all who meet him, so all are fair game
for him. When in addition to this, he is familiar with the languages,
laws, and customs of the land through which he proceeds, and is
independent of dragomans, firmans, and guards, then his journey is truly
delightful. Travelling the whole day in the open air, he finds the hour
of midday halt both a pleasure and a necessity. And then the enjoyments
of the evening, when having arrived at the spot where he means to rest
for the night, his steed pasturing near him, and he himself surrounded
by the saddles and baggage, gazing at the crackling fire which is to
cook his savoury supper! The rays of the setting sun are not then so
bright and cheerful as the glances of the traveller's eyes. No meal is
so savoury as his supper, and his slumber under the starry canopy of
heaven is a hundred times more refreshing than that of those who sleep
on luxurious down in princely chambers.

Kademgiah, the name of my second station, means "footprint," and is a
place of religious pilgrimage, where pious faith discovers on a marble
stone the print of Ali's foot. Such miraculous footprints are by no
means of rare occurrence in the East. Christians, Mohammedans, and
Brahmins, all hold them in equal veneration. What especially excited my
wonder was the vast size of most of them, suggesting as they did rather
the idea of the foot of an unwieldly elephant than that of a man. But
religious credulity does not trouble itself about such trifles as logic
or the fitness of things. In the mountains near Shiraz, for instance,
there is a footprint three feet long; the one in Herat is of the same
size, as is also that on Mount Sinai; and even in the distant Kothen, in
Chinese Tartary, a large footprint is shown, where, as the story goes,
the holy Jafer once strolled near Sadik. As I have observed, their
monstrous size creates no surprise or doubt in the minds of the pious.
Under the auspices of the holy place stand numerous inns for the
accommodation of pilgrims. In one of these I had comfortably established
myself, and was just engaged in making tea in the shade of the fine
poplars, when one of the priests of the place made his appearance, and
with a devout look invited me to visit the holy spot. As the only thing
the priest seemed to want at the time was a cup of tea, I treated him to
one. His further importunities proved him to have more mercenary views;
so as the cold marble stone which contains the sacred footprint was of
little interest to me, who had seen so many of its kind already, I
contrived at the expense of a few krans (francs) to dispense at once
with the society of my guest and the performance of a religious duty.

My third day's march took me over a region of low hills into the plain
of Nishapur, so celebrated in Persia, and I may add in all Asia.
Djolghe-i Nishabur (Plain of Nishapur) is in the eyes of the Persian the
_ne plus ultra_ of beauty and wealth. For him the air there is purer and
more fragrant than elsewhere; its water the sweetest in the world, and
its products without rivals in creation. It is difficult adequately to
describe the proud joy which is pictured in his countenance as he points
out the hills lying towards the north-east, abounding in turquoise mines
and precious metals. For myself, I must own that the plain, like the
city situated in its midst, produced a pleasing, but by no means the
entrancing effect I felt justified in anticipating. Its historical
importance would hardly have occurred to me, had it not been that a
Persian, who discovered I was a foreigner, joined in conversation with
me by the way, and unasked, began to sound with no little exaggeration
the praises of his native city.

No less inconsiderable did I find the town of Nishapur itself. The
bazaar is tolerably well filled with European and Persian wares, but the
traveller in vain explores the town for remains of that wealth and
architectural beauty which have been so highly lauded by Eastern
historians. The only things of note in the town are workshops for
grinding and polishing the turquoises found in the neighbourhood. The
stones in their unwrought state are of a gray colour, and only acquire
their well-known sky-blue hue after repeated polishings. The deeper its
colour, the more prominent its shape, and the smoother its surface, so
much the more costly is a stone--veins being regarded as flaws. A
curious phenomenon observable in these turquoises is that in many
specimens the colour fades a few days after being polished. The
inexperienced purchaser who is not aware of this circumstance not seldom
becomes a victim to Persian fraud; and many pilgrims who have purchased
in Nishapur stones of brilliant azure, have no other choice left them on
their return home than to throw them away as faded and colourless. At
the present day these mines are by no means so profitable as in former
times, they being rented altogether for the low sum of two thousand
ducats yearly. The commerce in the stones, which was once actively
carried on between Persia and Europe, especially with Russia, has also
of late years very much fallen off.

From Nishapur the road leads to Sebzevar, distant three days' march. The
intervening stations have been often described. No one who has travelled
in Persia can have failed to have heard the names of the four "stations
of terror," so rich are they in danger and in strange tales of
adventure. Whoever amongst the people has the ambition of laying claim
to a character for bravery, he never forgets to introduce their names
into the story of his adventures. Do you ask why? The answer is very
simple. The four stations are posted on the edge of the great plain
which extends far away into the steppes of the Turkomans. No river, no
mountain, breaks its uniformity, and as those rapacious children of the
desert have but little respect for political boundaries, their predatory
inroads are frequent, and these four places are just those which are
most exposed to their ravages. They seldom fail to profit largely by
such incursions, as here runs the principal road towards Khorassan,
which is ever full of heavily laden caravans and well-equipped pilgrims.
The Persian never tires of dwelling on adventures with Turkomans. At one
of the stations, among much else that was curious, I heard the
following story. A Persian general had sent his troops of six thousand
men on before him, and was only staying behind for a few minutes to
enjoy comfortably the last whiffs of his kalian. He had just finished
his pipe and was about to join his soldiers, followed by a few body
servants, when he was pounced upon by a body of Turkomans and carried
away on their swift horses. In a few minutes he was robbed and made
captive, and a few weeks later was sold as a slave in the market of
Khiva for the sum of twenty-five ducats.

On another occasion a pilgrim was captured on his way to the shrine of
Imam Riza. Luckily he saw the approaching enemy, and had just time to
hide his little store behind a stone ere the plunderers came upon him.
After he had been sold as a slave and brought to Khiva, he wrote from
thence to his tender spouse as follows: "My dear child, in such and such
a place, under such and such a stone, I have hidden forty ducats. Send
thirty of them to this place to ransom thy loving husband, and take care
of the remainder until I return from the land of the Turkomans, this
house of bondage, in which I must now, perforce, perform menial
service."

It is true that there is good cause here for fear and caution, but the
absurd pusillanimity of the Iranians is the main source of their
misfortunes. Their caravans are wont to assemble here in large masses.
They are protected by soldiers with drawn swords, and cannons with their
matches burning. Often their numbers are very considerable. No sooner,
however, do a few desperate desert robbers make their appearance than
caravan and escort alike lose their courage and presence of mind, fling
away their weapons, offer all their property to the enemy, and putting
out their hands to be fettered, allow themselves to be carried away
into painful, often lifelong, captivity and slavery. I rode from station
to station with my Tartar for my only escort--a journey which no
European had ever made before me. Of course I was warned not to do so.
But in my Turkoman dress what cared I for Turkoman robbers? As for my
Tartar, he looked wistfully around in hope that he might espy a
countryman of his. If we had fallen in with some of those Sunnite sons
of the desert, travelling as we were in a Shi-ite land, I believe that
so far from injuring a mollah of their own faith, they would have
rewarded us richly for the fatiha which we would have bestowed on them.
For four days I wandered in the steppe; once in the dusk of the evening
I lost my way, yet not a single Turkoman crossed my path. I met no one
except a few scared Persian travellers.

The reader will easily imagine the eagerness with which the traveller's
eyes look out for the gardens which surround Shahrud. As this town is
situated at the foot of a mountain, it is visible for miles off on the
plain. The wearied horseman thinks he has already reached the end of his
day's journey, when it is in reality five German miles distant. The road
is as monotonous as can possibly be imagined. It affords nothing
whatsoever to attract the eye. In summer, owing to utter want of water,
it must be very unpleasant to travel over it. Unfortunately I had
mistaken a village which lies in the vicinity of Shahrud for the town
itself, which at the point of the road was concealed in a hollow. My
anger when I discovered my mistake may be easily conceived. It was in
truth no joke to have added to the long day's journey a good half-hour's
additional ride. I had mounted my horse before twelve o'clock the night
before, and it was already past six o'clock in the evening, when I at
last gained the badly paved streets of Shahrud, and dismounted in one of
its principal caravansaries. My poor beast was utterly exhausted, and I
myself scarcely less so. But as I looked around the square of the
caravansary, how great was my astonishment at beholding a son of
Britain, yes, actually an unmistakable living Englishman, with a genuine
John Bull physiognomy, sitting at the door of one of the cells. An
Englishman alone here in Shahrud--that is certainly a rarity, almost a
miracle. I rushed towards him. He also, although apparently absorbed in
deep thought, regarded me with wondering eyes. My Bokhariot dress, and
my evident fatigue had attracted his attention. Who knows what he
thought of me then? For myself, in spite of my extreme exhaustion, I
hastened as well as I could to this extraordinary _rencontre_. I dragged
myself towards him, and staring at him with weary eyes, addressed him
with a "How are you, sir?" He appeared not to have understood me, so I
repeated my question. At this he sprang from his seat in surprise, the
greatest astonishment depicted in his countenance, while he gave vent to
his feelings with "Well I----. Where have you learned English?" asked
he, stammering with emotion; "perhaps in India." I should have liked to
have screwed up his curiosity a peg or two higher, and at any other time
might have enjoyed a mystification amazingly. But my long ride had so
thoroughly tired me out that I had not the spirits required for carrying
on the joke. I made a plain confession of what and who I was. His joy
was indescribable. To the great astonishment of my Tartar, who until now
had always regarded me as a true believer, he embraced me and took me
into his quarters. We spent a famous evening together, and I allowed
myself to be induced to rest there the whole of next day; for it did
the poor fellow no end of good to be able to speak of the West after six
months' separation from European society. A few months after our strange
meeting he was robbed and murdered on the road. His name was Longfield,
and he was agent for a large Lancashire house, for which he had to
purchase cotton. He had to carry a great deal of money about him, and
unfortunately forgot, as do too many, that Persia is not the civilized
land which the glowing representations of its lying agents in Europe
would lead us to suppose, and that one cannot place much reliance on
passports and royal firmans.

Before reaching Teheran I had a journey of eleven days yet before me.
The road is safe. The only point of interest offered along the stations
is the observation of the contrast between the manners of the
inhabitants of Khorassan and those of Irak. The proximity of Central
Asia has left its mark of many rude habits on the people of Khorassan,
whilst the polish of Iranian civilization is unmistakable in the
inhabitants of Irak. The traveller who is supposed to be possessed of
worldly means is always sure here of most polite treatment. Not but that
in outward appearance they pretend to a vast amount of guilelessness
with not a touch of greediness. The guest is treated as a most welcome
personage. He is overwhelmed with the very quintessence of courtly
phrases which accompany the presents offered to him. But he had better
be careful of his purse if he is uninitiated in the intricacies of
Persian politeness. I had become well acquainted with Iranian etiquette
during my travels in Southern Persia, and on such occasions I always
played the Iranian, meeting compliments with phrases even more
complimentary. I accepted, of course, the presents offered me, but never
failed with most flowery speeches to invite the giver of the gift to
partake of it. It rarely happened that he was proof against my
high-flown bombast, and quotations from Saadi and his other favourite
poets. Forgetting compliments and courtesy, he would then make a fierce
onslaught on the food and fruits he had himself heaped on the _khondja_
(wooden table), and tell me with repeated and significant shakes of the
head, "Effendi, thou art more Iranian than the Iranians; thou art too
polished to be sincere."

The nearer we approached Teheran the worse became the weather. We were
now in the latter part of December. I had felt the cold of the impending
winter while still on the plains; but here, in more elevated regions, it
was doubly severe. The temperature in Persia is liable to sudden
changes, and a journey of a few hours often makes a serious difference.
But the weather in the two stations of Goshe and Ahuan was so very
severe as to cause me anxiety. These two places are situated on a
mountain, and can afford accommodation to but a small number of people.
I fared tolerably well at Goshe, where I had the caravansary all to
myself and could arrange myself comfortably and cosily, while outside a
cruel, bitter cold prevailed. The next day, on my way to Ahuan, I found
snow in many parts of the roads. The biting north wind compelled me
often to dismount in order to keep my feet warm with walking. The snow
lay already several feet deep when I arrived at Ahuan, and it was frozen
so hard as to form along some parts of our road two solid walls. In
catching sight of the solitary post-house, I had but one intense
longing, to get beneath a roof and to find a good fire by which to warm
myself. The eye roving over the hills, white with snow, could not
discover within its range anywhere a human habitation or even the wreck
of one. We rode into the yard of the tchaparkhane in our usual
demonstrative manner in order to attract attention. The postmaster was
exceedingly polite, which, in itself, was a good omen, and I was
delighted as he led me into a smoky, but withal well-sheltered room; and
I paid but little attention to what he was saying, as he expatiated at
great length, with an air of great importance, on the expected arrival
of the lady of Sipeh Salar, the Persian generalissimo and minister of
war, who was on her way back from a pilgrimage to Meshed, and would
arrive either that night or the following day with a retinue of from
forty to sixty servants. To be overtaken by them in a place affording
such meagre accommodations as this post-house did, would of course be
far from pleasant. But the likelihood of such an event little disturbed
my equanimity; on the contrary I made myself and my weary beast as
comfortable as I could. As the fire began to blaze cheerily on the
hearth, and the tea to send its steamy flavour through the room, I
entirely lost all sense of the cold and discomfort I had so lately
endured, and listening to the shrill whistling of rude Boreas without,
who seemed to wish to rob me of my slumbers out of spite for having
escaped his fury, I gave no thought to the probability of being ousted
from my comfortable quarters. After I had taken my tea and felt a
pleasant warmth creeping through my whole body I began to undress. I had
thrown myself on my couch, my pilar and roast fowl were almost ready,
when, about midnight, through the howling of the wind I heard the tramp
of a troop of horsemen. I had scarcely time to jump up from my bed when
the whole cavalcade dashed into the court with clashing arms, oaths and
shouts. In an instant they were at my door, which was of course bolted.
"Hallo! who is here? Out with you! The lady of Sipeh Salar, a princess
of royal blood, is come; every one must turn out and make room for
her." I need not say that there were cogent reasons for not immediately
opening the door. The men asked of the postmaster who was the occupier
of the room, and upon learning that it was only a hadji, and he too a
heretic, a Sunnite, they began to level their swords and the butt ends
of their guns at the door, crying out, "Ha, hadji! take thyself off, or
wilt thou have us grind thy bones to meal!"

The moment was a very exciting and a very critical one. It is but a
sorry jest to be turned out of a warm shelter, where one is perfectly
comfortable, and to have to pass a bitterly cold winter's night in the
open air. It was not, perhaps, so much the fear of harm from exposure to
the cold as the suddenness of the surprise and the shock of the
unwelcome disturbance, which suggested to me the bold thought not to
yield, but fearlessly to accept the challenge. My Tartar, who was in the
room with me, turned pale. I sprang from my seat, seized gun and sword,
while I handed my pistols to him, with the order to use them as soon as
I gave him a sign to do so. I then took up a position near the door,
firmly resolved to fire at the first person who would intrude. My
martial preparations seemed to have been observed by those without, for
they began to parley. Indeed I remarked that the elegance of the Persian
which I employed in talking with them rather staggered them into a
suspicion that they might be mistaken after all in supposing me to be a
Bokhariot. "Who art thou, then? Speak, man, it seems thou art no hadji,"
was now heard from without. "Who talks about hadjis?" I cried; "away
with that abusive word! I am neither Bokhariot nor Persian. I have the
honour to be a European, and my name is Vambéry Sahib."

Silence followed this speech of mine. My assailants seemed to be
utterly dumbfounded. Its effect, however, was even more startling on my
Tartar, who now, for the first time, heard from his hadji
fellow-traveller's own lips that he whom he had looked upon as a true
believer was a European and that his real name was Vambéry. Pale as
death, and with eyes glaring wildly, he stared at me. I was in fact
placed between two fires. A sharp side-glance from me restored his
equanimity. The Persians too changed their tactics. The name of
European, that word of terror for Orientals, produced a magic effect.
Terms of abuse were followed by expressions of politeness; menaces by
entreaties; and as they earnestly besought me to allow two of the
principal members of the escort to share my room, while the others would
resign themselves to occupy the barn and the stable, I opened the door
to the trembling Persians. My features convinced them at once of the
truth of my assertions. Our conversation soon became very lively and
friendly, and in the course of half an hour my guests were reposing in a
corner of the room, completely stupified by over-indulgence in arrack.
There they lay snoring like horses. I then applied myself to the task of
explaining matters to my Tartar, and found him, to my agreeable
surprise, quite willing to appreciate my explanations. Next morning when
I left the snow-clad hills, and rode over the cheerful plain of Damgan,
the recollection of the adventure came back to me in all its vividness,
and I own that on sober second thoughts I was disposed to quake somewhat
on contemplating the unnecessary danger my rashness had exposed me to
the preceding night.

Damgan is supposed to be the ancient Hecatompylae (city with the hundred
gates); a supposition which our archæologists will maintain at every
hazard, although the neighbourhood affords no trace of a city to which
the hundred gates might have belonged. Of course one must make large
deductions from all assertions made by either Greeks or Persians, who
rival each other in the noble art of bragging and exaggerating. If we
reduce the hundred gates to twenty, it will still remain a matter of
considerable difficulty to discover a city of over twenty gates in the
obscure spot now called Damgan. The place boasts of scarcely more than a
hundred houses, and two miserable caravansaries in the midst of its
empty bazaar are sufficient indications that Damgan's reputation for
importance in commercial respects is equally unfounded.

From Damgan I travelled over two stations to Simnan, celebrated for its
cotton, and still more for its tea-cakes. Almost every town in Persia is
conspicuous for some speciality, in the production of which it claims to
be not only the foremost in Persia, but unrivalled in the whole world.
Shiraz, for instance, is famous for lamb, Isfahan for peaches, Nathenz
for pears, and so on. The odd thing about it is, that on arriving in any
of these towns and looking for the article so much bragged of, the
traveller is either greatly disappointed as to its quality, or, more
amusing still, he fails to find the article at all. In Meshed I heard
the tea-cakes of Simnan talked of, nay even in Herat; but as I had often
had occasion to value these exaggerations at their true worth, I did not
expect too much. Nevertheless, I went into the bazaar to inquire after
tea-cakes. My search, long and painful, was rewarded by a few mouldy
specimens. "Simnan," said one, "is justly celebrated for the excellence
of this article, but the export is so tremendous that we are left
without any." Another said: "It is true that Simnam was once famous for
the production of this article, but hard times have caused even the
quality of the tea-cakes to deteriorate." Here at any rate people had
the grace to invent some excuses, but in most places not even an
apology is attempted; and the unblushing fraud of the pretended claim to
the production of some excellent article shows itself without any
disguise.

The same sensations which overcame me when I arrived in Meshed, I felt
now with even greater intensity as I drew near Teheran, the
starting-place of my adventurous journey, where I was to meet so many
kind friends who, in all probability, had long ago resigned themselves
to the thought of my having paid with my life the penalty of my rash
enterprise.



XXIX.

FROM TEHERAN TO TREBIZOND.


The Persian capital appeared to me, when I saw it again, as the very
abode of civilization and culture, affording to one's heart's content
all the pleasures and refinements of European life. Of course, a
traveller from the West, on coming to the city for the first time, is
bitterly disappointed in seeing the squalid mud hovels and the narrow
and crooked streets through which he must make his way. But to one
coming from Bokhara the aspect of the city seems entirely changed. A
journey of only sixty days separates one city from the other; but in
point of fact, there is such a difference in the social condition of
Bokhara and Teheran, that centuries might have divided them from one
another. My first ride through the bazaar, after my arrival, made me
feel like a child again. Almost with the eagerness of my Tartar
companion, my delighted eyes were wandering over articles of luxury from
Europe, toys, stuffs and cloths which I saw exhibited there. The samples
of European taste and ingenuity then struck me with a sort of awe,
which, recalled now, seems to me very comical. It was a feeling,
however, of which it was difficult to get rid. When a man travels as I
did, and when he has as thoroughly and completely adapted himself to the
Tartar mode of life, it is no wonder if, in the end, he turns half a
Tartar himself. That doublefacedness in which a man lives, thoroughly
aware of his real nature in spite of his outward disguise, cannot be
maintained very long with impunity. The constant concealment of his real
sentiments, the absorbing work of his assimilating to the utmost
elements quite foreign, produce their slow and silent but sure effect,
in altering the man himself, in course of time, whether he wishes it or
no. In vain does the disguised traveller inwardly rebel against the
influences and impressions which are wearing away his real self. The
impressions of the past lose more and more their hold on him until they
fade away, leaving the traveller hopelessly struggling in the toils of
his own fiction, and the _rôle_ he had assumed soon becomes second
nature with him.

I formed no exception to the rule in this particular; the change in my
behaviour was the theme of many facetious remarks from my European
friends, and drew upon me more than once their good-natured sallies.
They made my salutations, my gesticulations, my gait, and above all my
mode of viewing things in general, an object of their mirth. Many went
so far as to insist upon my having been transformed into a Tartar, to my
very features; saying that even my eyes had assumed the oblique shape
peculiar to that race. This good-natured "chaff" afforded me great
amusement. It in no wise interfered with the extreme pleasure I felt in
being restored to European society. Nevertheless, besides the strange
sensation of enjoying the rare luxury of undisturb I repose for several
weeks, there were many things in the customs and habits of my European
friends to which reconciliation caused great difficulty. The
close-fitting European dress, especially, seemed to cramp me and to
hamper me in my movements. The shaved scalp was ill at ease under the
burden of the hair which I allowed to grow. The lively and sometimes
violent gestures which accompanied the friendly interchange of views, on
the part of the Europeans, looked to me like outbursts of passion, and I
often thought that they would be followed by the more energetic argument
of rude force. The stiff and measured carriage and walk, peculiar to
military people, which I observed in the French officers in the Persian
service, seemed to me odd, artificial and stilted. Not but that it
afforded me a secret pleasure to have occasion to admire the proud and
manly bearing of my fellow Europeans. It presented such a gratifying
contrast to the slovenly and slouching gait of the Central Asiatics,
amongst whom I had been lately living. It would serve no purpose to
point out to my readers, and to multiply, the numerous instances of the
strange perversion of views and tastes to which my late experiences
among strange Asiatic people had given rise. Those who, from personal
observations, are enabled to draw a parallel between life in the East
and West, will find no exaggeration in my saying that Teheran compared
to Bokhara seemed to be a sort of Paris to me.

The surprise and astonishment of the Persian public at the capital was
general when the successful issue of my perilous adventure became known.
Ketman (the art of dissimulation allowed by Islam) is a gift well known
and diligently cultivated by Orientals; but that a European should have
acquired such a degree of excellence in this peculiarly Eastern art as
to impose upon the natives themselves seemed to them incomprehensible.
Without doubt they would have grudged the successful termination of my
journey, had it not been that the joke I had played at the expense of
their arch enemies the Sunnite Turkomans tickled their fancy. The
steppes of Turkestan are many ways a _terra incognita_ to the
inhabitants of Teheran; and although they are situated near the confines
of Persia, the strangest and most fanciful ideas prevail amongst the
people in regard to them. I was the recipient of a thousand questions
from everybody on this subject. I was invited by several ministers to
visit them, and had even the distinction conferred upon me of being
presented to his Majesty, "the Centre of the World" or "Highly Exalted
Ruler of the Universe," as the Persians call him. I had to undergo the
wearisome ceremonial of the Persian court, before I was ushered into the
august presence of the Shah Nasr-ed-din, in the garden of the Palace,
and when there I received from him the condescending compliment of being
asked to tell the story of my adventures. I acquitted myself in this
with no little vivacity. The ministers who graced the interview with
their presence were quite dumbfounded with the easy coolness I exhibited
on that occasion, and as I was afterwards told, could scarcely recover
from their astonishment at my being able to endure without trembling the
looks of a sovereign whose least glance strikes terror into the heart of
the boldest mortal. The king himself seemed pleased with my performance,
for he afterwards testified to his satisfaction by sending me the Order
of the Lion and Sun, and what was more to the purpose, a valuable
Persian shawl. The insignia of the Order, consisting of a plain piece of
silver, I was permitted to retain, but the rapacity of the minister, so
characteristic of the court of Teheran, confiscated the shawl, worth at
least fifty ducats, for his own benefit. This conduct is by no means
astonishing: his Majesty the King lies and deceives his ministers, and
they, in their turn, repay his amiability towards them with usurious
interest. Inferior officials cheat the people, and the latter again
avail themselves of every opportunity to cheat the officials. Every one
in that country lies, cheats and swindles. Nor is such behaviour looked
upon as anything immoral or improper; on the contrary, the man who is
straightforward and honest in his dealings is sure to be spoken of
contemptuously as a fool or madman.

As an instance of this general moral obliquity, I will relate a neat
little story of what occurred while I was staying in Teheran. The king,
as is well known, is an inveterate sportsman and an excellent shot. He
passes about nine months in the year in hunting excursions, to the no
small annoyance of the officers of the court, who, on such occasions,
are compelled to leave the luxurious comforts of the harem, with its
dainty food and soft couches, for the rude life in a tent, the simple
fare of the country-people, and the long and fatiguing rides of the
chase. The king, on returning from the chase, is wont to send presents
of some of the game killed by him to the European ambassadors as a
special mark of his favour. This generosity, however, must be paid for
in the shape of a liberal _enaam_, or gratuity, to the servant who has
brought the roe, partridges and other game laid low by the royal hand.
The _Corps Diplomatique_ at first submitted patiently to this exaction,
but as these royal gifts became more and more frequent, the ministers
began to surmise that these repeated acts of distinction did not emanate
from the royal household, but were a mere fiction invented by the
servants to secure the expected large fees, and that the game brought
to them was purchased for the purpose. In order to obviate the
recurrence of similar frauds, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was to
certify, at the request of the ambassadors, to the _bonâ fide_ character
of the royal gifts. For a while this proved to be a preventative of the
annoyance; but for a short time only, for very soon the presents began
to pour in again with an alarming rapidity. Strict inquiries were now
instituted, and the astonishing fact was brought to light that his
Excellency the Minister connived at the fraud by issuing false
certificates, and that he shared in the profits of the disgraceful
transaction. The whole thing, when it transpired, was treated as an
excellent joke; and the king himself deigned to be highly amused at the
account of this singular method of taking in the Frengis.

As I did not intend leaving Teheran before spring, my stay there was
prolonged to two months. This time I passed very agreeably in the
society of the little European colony. Their joy at my return was
sincere, and this they demonstrated not only by cordial and warm
congratulations, but by a hundred little acts of politeness and goodwill
which rendered my stay with them exceedingly pleasant. The embassies did
not fail to acquaint their respective governments with my remarkable
adventures. As for myself I was quite astonished at the ado made about
my performances; nor could I very well comprehend the extraordinary
importance attached to my dervish trick, which presented itself to my
imagination, apart from the real dangers, rather in the ludicrous light
of a comedy brought to a prosperous end.

I was not a little proud as I left the Persian capital to find myself
provided with letters of recommendation to the principal statesmen of
England and France. I was especially touched by the interest shown by a
Hungarian countryman of mine, a Mr. Szantó, who plied the trade of a
tailor in Teheran. Born on the banks of the Theiss, he left his country
to escape conscription, preferring the life of an honest tradesman to
that of a soldier. His wanderings took him to Constantinople, and on
leaving that city he went through Asia Minor to Arabia, and thence
through South Persia to India. This singular man had made all these
journeys for the most part on foot. He was about to set out for the
capital of China when news reached him of the rising of his people in
1848, in order to achieve independence. Without a moment's hesitation he
determined to hasten back and enrol himself in the army of those who
were ready to fight and die for their country. But he had calculated
without taking into account the immense distance from Asia to Europe and
his slender means, which permitted him only the slow locomotion of a
pedestrian and conveyance in a sailing vessel. Thus, upon arriving in
Stambul he heard of the fatal day at Vilagos, the closing act of the
glorious revolutionary drama. In his disappointment he once more seized
the wanderer's staff, and, resuming his old trade, reached Teheran by
way of Tabreez. The good man spoke a most extraordinary language,
jumbling together all the different dialects he had partly picked up in
the countries through which he had passed. He did tolerably well at the
beginning of a conversation, starting fairly with Hungarian; but no
sooner had he become animated with his subject than a perfect farrago,
consisting of a conglomeration of Hungarian, German, French, with a
still more confusing mass of Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Hindustani
words, would ensue, putting the comprehension of his hearers to a sore
trial. His generous heart warmed towards me, his countryman, at whose
escape from so many dangers he was overjoyed; and in his simple way, to
demonstrate his sympathy, he insisted upon my accepting of him a pair of
pantaloons of his own handiwork, although his circumstances were rather
straitened. As I could not be induced to accept his gift, he persuaded
my Tartar to take it. The inhabitant of Central Asia laughed at what
seemed to him a ridiculous garment; but at last curiosity prevailed with
him so far as to induce him to put it on, and kind-hearted Szantó was
beside himself with delight and pride at having been the first tailor
who had put a Tartar into a pair of European trousers.

I must not omit to mention another European I met here, a M. de
Blocqueville, who may be justly called one of the most expensive of
photographers--at least to the Shah of Persia. In the service of the
latter, he had taken part in an expedition against the Turkomans, had
the misfortune of being taken prisoner, and was at last released upon
payment of the enormous ransom of ten thousand ducats. M. de
Blocqueville, a perfect French gentleman, had come to _la belle Perse_
in search of adventures. He did not wish to practise as a physician, the
orthodox career of a European in the East, but preferred to try his luck
with photography, which, being less known in Persia, promised greater
success. This amiable young man, as the sequel showed, was right in his
calculations, for the king immediately engaged him to be his Court
Photographer, and he was attached to the army in the capacity of painter
of battle pieces. The king was delighted at having secured an artist who
would immortalize on canvas the gallant feats of his heroic army, and
his lively imagination conjured up visions of grand pictures in which
every one of them would be portrayed as a very Rustem. Unfortunately,
fate had willed it otherwise; the twenty-five thousand Rustems were
attacked by five thousand Turkomans and shamefully defeated. A large
portion of the brave Persian army were taken prisoners, and slaves
became such a drug in the market that they could be bought back at the
reasonable price of from five to six ducats. M. de Blocqueville,
however, on account of his fair complexion and strange cut of features,
was suspected of being worth more to his masters, and more, therefore,
was asked for his release. Of course the Persians refused to accept
other terms, but every new refusal brought on an increase of the ransom,
until finally the exorbitant sum of ten thousand ducats had to be paid
by the court of Teheran for the freedom of a French subject. Nor would
this have been done but for an energetic hint conveyed by the Government
of France through their representative, Bellaunay, that if the Persians
had not ducats enough to ransom this French subject, they would lend him
French bayonets. The gentle warning had its effect, the money was paid,
and the young photographer restored to liberty. A year and a half had
been spent in these negotiations, and M. de Blocqueville, formerly an
officer in a regiment of the Guard, was exposed during all this time to
the galling experiences of slavery among the Turkomans. The bitter
contrast between the life of a gentleman in the _Champs Elysées_ and
that of a captive loaded with irons on neck and feet must have often
suggested itself to him as he shivered in rags beneath the insufficient
shelter of a Turkoman tent, with cutlets of horse-flesh the greatest
culinary delicacy within reach. He had gone through a great deal of
suffering, and he all but wept for joy when he safely returned from that
terrible country. To a greater degree than any one else he had leisure
to study the dreadful realities of life in Central Asia, and I found in
him a ready sympathizer with the hardships I had gone through, he being
able to appreciate their magnitude.

Now that we are on the subject of the Turkomans, I must not leave
unmentioned that several of them, who were at Astrabad on business,
hearing of my arrival in Teheran, called on me and asked my _fatiha_
(blessing). They assured me that my fatihas had worked wonders, and that
the people in the Gomushtepe were often wishing to have me there back
again. Although dressed in European clothes, these simple people
reverently bowed down before me while I gave each of them a blessing,
citing at the same time a few verses from the Koran. They left me
apparently much edified, and they were the last people to whom I gave a
fatiha, and that was the last occasion on which I performed spiritual
functions of the kind. My imagination caught fire at the idea of my
religious fame. I picture to myself the possibilities I might achieve
among these untutored Children of the Desert, if I had only the will and
the courage to dare. Such is usually the way in which Oriental heroes
commence their career. They shroud themselves in a mysterious magical
obscurity, and crowds follow blindly their lead, and determination alone
is wanted to make a man an autocrat whose slightest command is obeyed
with slavish and unreasoning submission.

With the very first breath of vernal air I bade farewell to the Persian
capital, the seat of Oriental civilization, and took the regular
post-road through Tabreez, Erzerum, and Trebizond to the Black Sea. As
on my journey from Meshed to Teheran I had been well supplied with all
things requisite for a traveller in the East, so now from Teheran to
Trebizond I lacked in nothing to render the journey comfortable. I was
provided with even better horses; I had more funds; and the treatment
along the road corresponded with my change of fortune. I reached the
Persian frontier in the highest spirits, and made merry all along the
road, encouraged by the finest imaginable spring weather.

Gazing from the Pontic mountain, from whose top the Black Sea is first
visible, as I arrived in the neighbourhood of Trebizond, I saw before me
the coast upon which I had turned my back with so many strange
misgivings two years ago this very month. The harbour, the flag of
_Lloyd_ fluttering in the breeze--there they were again, as if to salute
me on my return. What a wild rush of thoughts were conjured up by those
familiar sights, from which my parting had been so bitter!

To reach a harbour, where a ship rode at anchor ready to start, was the
same thing as to reach Europe. The comforts of a splendid and commodious
cabin on board the Lloyd steamer, the tokens of European life
multiplying round us in every imaginable form, may foster the illusion
that we are at home again, in spite of the several days' voyage
separating us from Europe. I passed two days only in Trebizond,
employing my time chiefly in disposing of the larger part of my
equipment for Eastern travel, for which I now had no further use,
retaining only a few articles as relics and keepsakes of my roamings. In
the middle of May I went on board the steamer which bore me back to the
scene of my future--Europe.



XXX.

HOMEWARDS.


If my way from Tabreez to Trebizond resembled an entry in triumph, my
journey homewards was the much more marked with signs of acknowledgment
by every European I met in Turkey of the great fatigues I had undergone
during my travels. On my arrival in Constantinople, I found the Turkish
capital not only many times more enchanting than before, comparing the
howling wilderness of Central Asia with the natural beauties of the
Bosphorus, but I saw in the Turks a totally civilized nation, who are in
great advance over their brethren in faith and in nationality who dwell
in the interior of Asia; nay, men whose physical features resemble much
more the genuine European than the representatives of the Iranian and
Turanian race. My first visit was to the Austrian Ambassador of that
time, to the learned diplomatist, the late Count Prokesch-Osten, who was
always kind to me during my sojourn in the Turkish metropolis, and who
received me now with real cordiality. For a moment he gazed upon me,
not being able to recognize a former acquaintance in his emaciated and
weather-worn visitor; and it was only after I had addressed him in
German, that he nearly burst into tears, saying, "For heaven's sake,
Vambéry, what have you done; what has become of you?" I gave him a short
account of my travels, and of my adventures; and the good old man, moved
to the inmost of his noble heart, tried to persuade me before all to
stay a few days in his house, in order to recover my strength, and to
pursue only after rest my way to Budapest. I declined politely, and
listened with great attention to the hints he gave me about the next
steps I had to take in Europe. "You do quite right to go straight
forward to London," said the Count; "England is the only country full of
interest for the geography and ethnography of Inner Asia. You will there
have a good reception; but you must not forget to style accordingly the
account of your travels. Keep yourself strictly to the narrative of your
adventures; be short and concise in the description; and particularly
abstain from writing a book mixed with far-fetched argumentations or
with philological and historical notes."

My next visit in Constantinople was to Aali Pasha, the Grand Vizier of
that time, to whom I intended to report on the political condition of
Persia and of Central Asia. On my way from Pera to Constantinople--I
mean to say to the offices of the Porte--I met with many of my previous
acquaintances without being recognized by any one. The same happened
with me on my passage through the corridor of that large building of the
Sublime Porte, and it was only in consequence of my having been
announced, that Aali Pasha was able to recognize in me the former Reshid
Effendi--my official name in Turkey--the man whom he supported in his
linguistic studies by lending him rare manuscripts out of his
collection. He received me with great friendliness, and insisted on my
staying in Constantinople, but, politely declining, I hurried back to
the port in order to be in due time for departure of the vessel of the
Austrian Lloyd Company bound for Kustendje. On arriving at the port near
Fyndykly, I had to fulfil a most unpleasant duty, namely, to dismiss my
faithful Tartar, who had accompanied me from Khiva to the shore of the
Bosphorus--to say a final good-bye to the sincere and honest young man,
who had shared with me all the fatigues and privations of my dangerous
journey homewards from the banks of the Oxus, who never showed the
slightest sign of discontent, and who really had become like a brother
to me. It was an unspeakably painful moment of my life! I handed over to
him nearly all my ready cash, keeping only enough to pay for my food
until I arrived at Pesth--for the passage was free. I gave him all my
dresses, my equipment, &c., made him a long speech as to his behaviour
during his further journey to Mecca and concerning his way backward to
Khiva; and I had just extended my arms to embrace him, when he burst out
in a torrent of tears and said, "Effendi! forgive me, but I cannot
separate from you. The sanctity of the holy places is certainly a much
beguiling object; to see the tomb of our Prophet is worth a whole life;
but I cannot leave you, I cannot go alone! I am ready to renounce all
the delights of this and of the future world; I am ready to part even
with my home, but I cannot separate from you." The reader may fancy my
great astonishment when I heard the _ci-devant_ young theological
student of Central Asia speaking these words; and I said to him, "My
dear friend, do you know that I am going to the country of unbelievers,
to Frengistan, where the climate, the water, the language, the manners
and customs of the different people will be utterly strange to you, and
where you will find yourself speedily at an extraordinary distance from
your own home, and will have to remain eventually, without any hope of
revisiting again in your life your paternal seat in Khiva? Consider well
what you are doing, for repentance will be too late, and I should not
like to be the cause of your misfortune!" The poor Tartar stood pale and
dejected for a few moments, the great struggle in his soul being
noticeable only by the fiery rolling of his eyes; he pressed his lips
spasmodically, and then burst out in the following words, "Believer or
unbeliever, I care not which, wherever you go I go with you. Good men
cannot go to bad places. I have implicit faith in your friendship, and I
trust in God that he will take care of us both." Standing thus in the
midst of my confusion, I heard the ringing of the bell at the vessel.
The time for further consideration and argumentation was gone. I took my
luggage and the Tartar on board the steamer, and no sooner had we
arrived than the anchors were weighed; and away we steamed through the
Bosphorus on the Black Sea to Kustendje.

My journey up the Danube to Pesth in the month of May, 1864, was full of
delight and interest. By every step which brought me nearer to the
frontier of Hungary, I met new friends and fresh admirers, for the news
of my successful travels in Central Asia had already spread throughout
Europe, and had in particular roused the attention of my countrymen,
with whom the dim lore of their Asiatic descent is not all unknown, and
who were now most anxious to get fresh information from the seat of
their ancestors, the cradle of the Magyar race. On my arrival in Pesth,
I was met first by Baron Joseph Eötvös, the Vice-President of our
Academy, my noble-hearted patron, who had assisted me in my juvenile
struggles, who had encouraged me to my travels, and who was now full of
joy in seeing me safe, although he was much worn-out by fatigues at
home. Baron Eötvös, the greatest literary genius of Hungary of the
present century, the author of the brilliant philosophical work "The
Reigning Ideas of the Nineteenth Century," did not at all conceal from
me the difficulties I should yet have to contend with. "Go at once to
London," he said, "and being provided, as you are, with letters of
introduction to the leading personalities, you are almost sure of a warm
reception, and of a real acknowledgment of your merits." Well, this plan
had matured in me since my leaving Teheran, where the late Sir Charles
Alison, and particularly Mr. Thompson, the present British Minister at
the Persian Court, had likewise given to me similar suggestions. I
therefore took the firm decision to go to England as soon as possible--I
mean to say as soon as I got the necessary means for the journey. This
equipment proved, however, not an easy task. Marks of recognition in the
papers, invitations to dinner-parties, &c., were not wanting on my
arrival at Pesth; but the funds for my journey to London were not so
easily got, and I was obliged to leave my Tartar behind in the care of a
friend and to proceed alone to England. It was certainly a great pity
not to be able to bring Mollah Ishak--this was the name of the
Tartar--to the banks of the Thames, for he would have made a capital
figure at Burlington House, before the Royal Geographical Society; but I
had to accommodate myself to imperious necessity, and taking with me
only my notes and a few Oriental manuscripts, I left Hungary towards the
end of May, and proceeded without stopping to England.



XXXI.

IN ENGLAND.


Only a couple of weeks having elapsed since I emerged from the depths of
Asia to the very centre of Europe, and since I exchanged the life of a
travelling dervish for that of a strictly Europeanized man of letters,
it may easily be conceived what extraordinary effects this sudden
transformation wrought upon me. I shall try to describe some of the
prominent features of this change, although I hardly believe that my
feeble pen is equal to the task. It was before all the idea of having
renounced the life of a wanderer, and of being henceforward unable to
change by abode daily, which gave me great trouble. The firm and stable
house and its furniture seemed to me like fetters, and filled me with
disgust after a few days' stay. Then came the aversion I felt to the
European dress, particularly to the necktie and stiff linen, which were
quite an ordeal to me, accustomed as for years I had been to the wide
and comfortable Asiatic garb, which gives not the slightest restraint
whilst its wearer is either sitting or walking. Not even the food, and
still less the manner of eating, had any attraction for me, who for
years and years had used his fingers as knife and fork, and who had now
to observe the European table etiquette with all its rigour. And what
should I say about all the multifarious differences between the manners
and habits of Europe and those of Asia? I really felt like a child, or
like some semi-barbarous inhabitant of Asia or Africa on his first
introduction into European society, and I really do not know whether I
should laugh at my awkwardness in that time, or whether I should admire
the forbearance shown to me by English society during the first weeks of
my appearance in London.

With these and similar feelings I spent my first days in the English
metropolis. My first care was to hand over the letters of introduction I
got in Teheran to those distinguished _savants_ and politicians who were
connected with Central Asia, and who had a pre-eminent interest in the
results of my travels. My first visit was to _Sir Henry Rawlinson_, who
was then, and is even now, the greatest living authority on all
scientific and political questions associated with Central Asia. He
received me in a most affable manner in his house in Berkeley Street,
Berkeley Square, where he was living at that time; and although I was
able to lead an English conversation, still for the sake of better
fluency I preferred Persian, of which Sir Henry, late ambassador of
Great Britain in Persia, was a perfect master, and which he really
handled with exquisite refinement. The topic of our conversation was of
course Bokhara, Khiva, Herat, and Turkestan, places of which the learned
decipherer of the cuneiform inscriptions of Behistan had an astounding
store of information. My details about the capture of Herat by Dost
Mohammed Khan, about the campaign of the Emir of Bokhara against
Kokhand in favour of Khudayar Khan, and particularly the rumours I heard
about the approach of the Russian detachment under Tchernayeff, were the
topics in which he seemed most interested. It was a kind of
cross-examination which I had to go through; and after a conversation of
nearly an hour's length, I took leave with the full conviction that my
first _début_ was not an unsuccessful one. The next call I made was upon
_Sir Roderick Murchison_, the President of the Royal Geographical
Society at that time, whose house, at 16, Belgrave Square, gave me for
the first time an idea of the comfort and luxury surrounding an English
literary man of distinction. I need scarcely say that Sir Roderick,
whose amiability is world-wide known, received me, not like a foreigner
introduced to him by his friend, but like a fellow-traveller--as became
the good-hearted patron of all those whose efforts were directed towards
the furthering of geographical knowledge. He did not care much about the
languages, the manners, and the habits of Asiatic people, but rather
about orographical and hydrographical facts; and he actually showed some
disappointment on hearing from me that I neither brought cartographical
sketches nor specimens of the geological formations. Having been asked
whether I had brought some drawings with me, I answered not quite to his
satisfaction, that I carried only a small pencil not larger than the
half of my thumb with me, concealed under the wadding of my dervish
dress, and that if people had noticed my making any use of this
contrivance, I certainly should not have had the pleasure of my present
interview with him. The good old man was unable to realize the great
dangers I ran in my disguise, for he always thought of his own journey
to the Ural, executed under the princely protection of the Emperor of
Russia--he being provided with ample means from home. The topic which
he most decidedly shunned was politics; for whenever I touched the
question of the Russian approach to the frontiers of India, and of the
very near term of Russian encroachment upon Central Asia, he immediately
said smilingly, "Oh, you must not believe that; the Russians are a nice
people; their Emperor is an enlightened, noble prince, and the Russian
plans in Asia cannot mean mischief against the interests of Great
Britain." As to the enlightened character of the late Russian Emperor,
nobody had any doubt. His esteem and consideration for science had an
eloquent symbol in the pair of magnificent malachite vases which were in
the house of Sir Roderick Murchison, who was much liked at the Court on
the Neva; but, as events have since proved, these were only testimonials
of personal feelings, which had no influence whatever upon the course of
politics in Asia. Excepting that this single difference of opinion
occurred, my first meeting with the President of the Royal Geographical
Society succeeded beyond all my expectations. He invited me to lecture
before the society at its concluding meeting, and asked me to dinner on
an early evening. I confess the kind manner in which this noble-hearted
gentleman treated me during my sojourn in London, and the rich
hospitality which I so frequently enjoyed in his house, will be ever
green in my memory.

The third man upon whom I called was the late Viscount Strangford, the
wonderful Oriental linguist and the brilliant writer. I say on purpose
wonderful, for I rarely met a man in my life whose almost supernatural
ability to speak and to write many European and Asiatic languages caused
me so much astonishment. Our conversation began in the Turkish of
Constantinople, in that refined idiom, whereof six or eight words out of
every ten are certainly either Arab or Persian, only the others
belonging to the genuine Turkish stock. To use this language in an
elegant way, it is requisite to adapt one's mode of thinking entirely to
that of thoroughbred Orientals, to have besides a proficiency in the
standard works of Mohammedan literature, and, above all, to have moved a
good deal in the so-called Effendi society. It is certainly no
exaggeration to say that Lord Strangford, fully adequate to these
exigencies, would have been taken by everybody for a downright Effendi,
had it not been for the peculiarly Celtic shape of his head, and for the
way in which he used to turn it to the right and to the left of his
shoulders. Finding that I had come fresh from the East, where for many
years I used Turkish as a colloquial and literary language, he was
delighted to renew with me all his reminiscences of a long stay on the
Bosphorus, and particularly to have somebody who was able to give him
oral information about the language and literature of Central Asia, in
which he was so much interested. Having flattered myself with the hope
that I should become the only authority in Europe on Eastern-Turkish,
the reader may fancy my astonishment when I heard from the mouth of an
English nobleman the recital of such poems as those of Nevai, which had
hitherto escaped my attention, and when he gave me the explanation of
words which I had vainly looked for in the Eastern dictionaries. Lord
Strangford was quite a riddle to me; for apart from his knowledge in
Eastern tongues, he spoke almost all European languages; he was a
Sclavonic scholar, he knew Hungarian, nay, even the language of the
Gipsies; and what struck me most was his vast information concerning the
various literatures and histories of these peoples. No wonder,
therefore, that I felt from the beginning a particular attraction to the
learned Viscount, and that he also, as I afterwards had ample
opportunity to learn, took a fancy to me and became my most zealous and
disinterested supporter in England. Envy and jealousy had no place in
the noble heart of Lord Strangford; he gave himself all possible pains
to introduce me everywhere, and to level the ground before me, and the
standing I gained in London society was entirely due to his exertions.

Amongst the introductions which I had brought with me from Teheran was
one to Mr., now Sir Henry, Layard, another to the late Sir Justin Sheil,
formerly Ambassador at Teheran, and recommendations to several men of
note connected in some way or other with the interior of Asia. Sir Henry
Layard who was at that time Under Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, received me in his open, straightforward, British manner. Not
many years having elapsed since the politician of high standing was
himself a traveller in Asia, he behaved towards me like a colleague and
like a former brother in arms. The same I must say in reference to the
late Sir Justin Sheil and Lady Sheil; the latter was kind enough to give
me the necessary hints as to the complicated laws and social tone of the
West End; in one word, all my friends helped together to shape out of
the rough material of the _ci-devant_ dervish the lion of the London
season. No easy task of course, if you consider that the said dervish,
although a European by birth, had never before been west of his own
country, and that his education and his continual studies were not made
to facilitate such a change in his life. But what does not man attempt
for the sake of success? Necessity and assistance had soon transformed
the lame Mohammedan beggar into an admired lion of the British
metropolis; and the man, who but a few months before had to wander about
in tatters and to beg his daily bread by chanting hymns and by bestowing
blessings upon true believers in Asia, became the wonder of the richest
and the most civilized society of the Western world!

It is the details of this extraordinary change that I have to relate to
my gentle reader.

The account of my adventures having become known in strictly scientific
circles, my friends thought it necessary to bring me before the larger
public, and the first forum in which I had to appear was the Royal
Geographical Society. There was, however, a rather curious hindrance to
the final settlement, an incident which I cannot leave untold. A few
days after my arrival in London I noticed that some of my friends began
to have a shy look, and that they treated me with a good amount of
caution, if not suspicion. Having just finished the career of a
dangerous disguise, and being accustomed to the suspicious looks of men,
I did not at first feel disconcerted; but the fact nevertheless excited
my curiosity, and speaking just then with General Kmethy, my countryman
of Kars renown and a popular member of London Society at that time,
about the strange attitude of people, I was told by the good man, in a
half-laughing and joking manner, that I was probably unaware of the
serious danger in which I found myself in London. I heard then that
some, even the best of my friends, on seeing my sun-burned, swarthy
face, and on hearing my unmistakably genuine Persian and Turkish
conversation, got rather suspicious about me, and took me for some
Persian vagabond who had learned English in India, and who, after having
succeeded in getting letters of introduction, was now playing a comedy
for English scholars and diplomatists. It was only the formal assurance
of General Kmethy that I was a countryman of his and a member of the
Hungarian Academy, which dissipated the doubts that had arisen. "Is it
not strange?" said I to myself. "In Asia they suspected me to be a
European, and in Europe to be an Asiatic; languages have really an
immense power of fascination!" This difficulty having been removed and
an unimpaired confidence having set in, I began to work out a short
account of my travels in English, to be read before the Royal
Geographical Society--a paper which Mr. Laurence Oliphant, who was
acting at that time as foreign secretary of the Society, was kind enough
to revise. I must say that it was with a good deal of impatience and
anxiety that I looked forward to the evening of my first _début_ before
a select English audience such as the members of the London Geographical
Society have been always, and are even now. My anxiety was the much more
justified, as it happened that on the same evening a political question
of a far-reaching interest, namely, whether England should side with
Denmark in her struggle with Germany, was to be discussed in the House
of Parliament, and my friends as well as myself apprehended the presence
of a very small audience at our proceedings. The usual dinner at
Willis's Rooms which preceded our meeting went off tolerably well. My
health was proposed by Sir Roderick Murchison in very kind terms and
drunk with much cheering; and, when I returned thanks, I concluded my
little speech by conferring a Mohammedan blessing upon the dinner
party--reciting the first Surah of the Koran with all the eccentricity
of the Arabic guttural accent, and with all the queerness of genuine
Moslem gesticulation. I need scarcely say that my mode of recital
elicited a good deal of merriment. We left the table and went straight
to Burlington House.

Here I found a meeting much larger than I expected, an attendance which
I ascribe to the novelty of the whole case. Before all, it was the sight
of a European who had wandered about in the interior of Asia in the
disguise of a holy beggar without a penny in his pocket, and who had
succeeded in penetrating countries hitherto little or not at all known.
Secondly, it was the curiosity to hear a foreigner, only a few days in
England, address an English meeting in the language of the country; and
last, if not least, it was the interest the British public felt at that
time in Bokhara, the place of the martyrdom of two heroic sons of Great
Britain--I mean of Conolly and Stoddart--and the town from which the
Rev. Dr. Joseph Wolff had only returned a few years previously, after
his most extraordinary adventures. Suffice it to say that the meeting
was most respectable from a quantitative point of view. Sir Roderick
opened it with a good humour quite in accord with his jolly and radiant
after-dinner face; and whilst Mr. Clements Markham read my paper in his
magnificent stentorian voice, I had plenty of leisure to observe the
assembly and to prepare for the speech which had to follow. On being
asked by the President to come before the public and to give an oral
account of what had just been read, I confess that I experienced
something of the position in which I stood before the Emir of
Bokhara--with the essential difference of course, that in case of a
failure the bloody tyrant would have handed me over to the executioner,
whilst the indulgent English public would have expressed its displeasure
by benignant laughter. I collected, therefore, all my linguistic powers,
and, after the utterance of the first ten or fifteen words, the flood of
oration went off uninterruptedly. For more than half an hour I spoke
with animation of the salient incidents of my adventurous journey to
Samarkand. Oh, glorious language of Shakespeare and Milton! I am sure
nobody has ever tormented thee so much as I did in those thirty-five
minutes; nobody has murdered the Queen's English in such a cruel way as
the ex-dervish in Burlington House! And yet the English audience showed
itself exceedingly kind towards the reckless foreigner. I was much
applauded and cheered; and when, following the summons of Sir Roderick,
I gave to the meeting my blessing with the genuine Arabic text, the
whole society burst into a fit of laughter, which made the walls nearly
tremble. Then followed the long business of handshaking and
congratulations; and though all the futilities of this world may
disappear from me, Lord Strangford's "Well done, dervish!" will never
cease to resound in my ear like the sweetest music I ever heard in my
life.

From this moment dates the beginning of my career in England. What
followed was only the effect of this first successful step. In the
report of the next morning's papers I noticed only a few reproaches of
my foreign accent; as to the account of my travels there was a unanimous
approval and admiration. No wonder, therefore, that a few weeks sufficed
to make my name familiar over the whole of the United Kingdom. London
society vied in the manifestation of all kinds of acknowledgment.
Invitations to dinner-parties and to visit in the country literally
poured in upon me, even from persons whom I never saw or met in my life;
and it happened frequently that I had to write thirty letters of refusal
and acceptance in one day. I got calls from all sorts of persons with
well-sounding names, who, provided with a card of one of my friends,
came to my humble lodging in Great Portland Street or to the Athenæum
Club, where I enjoyed the hospitality of a guest, to shake hands and to
have a conversation with me. Infinite was the number of those letters in
which I was asked for my likeness or for my autograph.

Surprised by these various kinds of distinction, at the outset I
endured the burdens of my reputation with patience, nay with a good
amount of satisfaction, but in the end they began to be a little too
wearisome--particularly as I had to write the account of my journey and
to work up the meagre notes written on small paper scraps with lead
pencil, which loose sheets, by having been worn concealed under the
wadding of my beggar-dress, were somewhat obliterated and had become
hardly legible. Assisted by a happy gift of memory, I succeeded,
however, in writing down my adventures; and in three months I had
revised the proof-sheets of my first book, entitled "Travels in Central
Asia." The task, I frankly own, cost me more trouble and exertion than
many of the most trying parts of my travels. Only those who for months
and years have moved about freely in the open air, and who have learned
to appreciate the charms of a continually wandering life with all its
exciting adventures--only those will know with what unspeakable pangs
and sufferings a former traveller can shut himself up in a room, from
which he sees only a small bit of the sky, and sit down to write
consecutively for hours every day for weeks and months! I need scarcely
say that I breathed more freely after having finished my book, and
handed it over to Mr. John Murray, who became my publisher on the
recommendation of Lord Strangford, and who behaved towards me in a
satisfactory way. The honorarium of five hundred pounds which I got, and
of which I spent nearly the half in London, did not make me rich at all.
The truth is, my material situation was not very much changed: a dervish
in Asia, I remained a _fakir_ in Europe; but I gained by my book
something more valuable than money, namely, the acknowledgments of the
English public, and fame and reputation over the whole European and
American Continents.

Upon the invitation of the friends I had in the meantime made I also
went to satisfy the curiosity of leading political men, who were anxious
to hear details about the threatening collision between England and
Russia in the distant East, of which I threw out only a few hints in the
concluding chapter of my book, but which nevertheless had aroused the
greatest attention. It was in this way that I came into connection with
politics and with the political men of that time, such as Members of
Parliament, political writers, retired civilians and military officers
of India, and, consequently, got the opportunity of an interview with
Lord Palmerston, to whom I had already been cursorily introduced at a
dinner-party in the house of Sir Roderick Murchison. His Lordship
received me at his home in Piccadilly, and my visit was therefore of a
strictly private character. He did not address me exactly as he did the
late Dr. Livingstone, to whom he said, "You had a nice walk across
Africa!" But his first remark was, "You must have gone through nice
adventures on your way to Bokhara and Samarkand!" And he really listened
with greatest attention to all that I said about Dost Mohammed Khan,
about the haughtiness of the Emir of Bokhara and about the dangers I ran
in the last-named town. On touching the question of the Russian advance
towards Tashkend, I took the map out of my book which was on the table,
and pointed to Chimkent as the place where the Russians stood at that
time; but his Lordship showed, or at least feigned, great incuriosity,
trying always to turn the thread of conversation to other insignificant
topics. Whenever I thought I had caught his attention he immediately
came forward with the question, "And did you not betray your European
character?" or "How could you stand that long trial and those
privations?" or with similar remarks. It was only after renewed attacks
upon his taciturnity that he dropped, in a careless manner, a few
allusions either to the barbarous state of affairs in Central Asia or to
my over-sanguine opinions of the Russian strength in that quarter of the
world. He succeeded in showing outward indifference, but he was far from
convincing me of its existence. In my interview with Lord Clarendon I
fared much better. It took place late in the Autumn of 1864, when the
famous note of Prince Gortschakoff, after the Russian capture of
Tashkend, had been made known, and when the public opinion of England
seemed to have been roused suddenly from its stupor. His Lordship was
frank enough to admit the truth of what I said in the last chapter of my
book; but he added at the same time what has since become the standing
principle of optimists in England: "Russia's policy in Central Asia is
framed in the same way as ours in India; she is compelled to move
gradually from the North to the South, just as we were obliged to do in
our march from the South to the North. She is doing services to
civilization, and we do not care much even if she takes Bokhara."



XXXII.

IN PARIS.


After being wearied by the endless series of dinner-parties in
London--or, as a friend of mine jestingly remarked, after having been
properly hunted down as the lion of the season--I felt the great
necessity of extricating myself from the splendid, but to me the already
tiresome, English hospitality; and I went over to Paris to have a look
about in French society. This became the much easier for me--Count
Rechberg, the Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, having provided me
with a letter of introduction to Prince Metternich, who was then
accredited to the court of the Emperor Napoleon, and Count Rochechouart,
the French Envoy at Teheran, having given me a similar letter to the
Count Drouyn de L'huys, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. I had,
moreover, the good fortune to be introduced by my English friends to
many other literary men of distinction, such as M. Guizot, M. de Thiers,
M. Jules Mohl, and others, all of whom received me very
politely--although their first reception impressed me with the feeling
that the ground upon which I stood in Paris was quite different to that
of London. The French have never indulged a particular foible of
geographical discovery; a traveller holds with them an interesting
individuality, but is not the great man, as in England, where the
successful explorer is somewhat like what the German means when he
speaks of "_grosser Gelehrte_," or the Frenchman when he speaks of "_un
grand savant_." Whereas the English have a particular consideration for
the man who has made himself a name on the field of practical
observations, or who has enriched any branch of science with new data
collected on the spot, the French, and more particularly the Germans,
have always a predilection for the theoretical investigator, for the man
who, absorbed in his library, is able to write big books with numerous
notes; in one word, in England the spirit of Raleigh, Drake, and Cook is
still alive, whilst in France and Germany travellers and explorers have
only very recently come into fashion.

Paris society was more impressed with the novelty of my _manner_ of
travelling--namely, my having assumed the disguise of a dervish--than
with the travels themselves; it viewed me in the light of a rather
curious adventurer. I was spoken of as a man of restless spirit and of
romantic proclivities, and I was gazed upon as some modern Robinson
Crusoe. What heightened my reputation most was my happy gift of speaking
many European and Asiatic languages. Happening one evening to meet in
the _salon_ of M. Guizot the representatives of ten different
nationalities, and having conversed with them fluently in their mother
languages, I was regarded by many as a real miracle. As to the intrinsic
value of my reception in France, I noticed in the very beginning that I
should remain a stranger there, for Bokhara and Samarkand, Uzbegs and
Turkomans are totally unknown, except among a few learned men, in the
best French society. Nevertheless, my book, which came out in a French
translation under the title "Voyage d'un Faux Derviche," had a pretty
good sale.

After having been introduced to some of the best circles, I was told by
Prince Metternich that the Emperor would like to give me an audience;
having read the English edition of my book, he would like to ask me a
few questions. One afternoon the Prince took me to the Tuileries, and we
had just entered the gate of the Pavillon d'Horloge, when I saw Napoleon
III. on the staircase as he took leave of the Queen of Spain, who had
called upon him. On noticing Prince Metternich, with whom the imperial
family was on very good terms, the Emperor seized his arm, and beckoning
in a friendly manner to me, walked to the interior apartments. The
Prince remained behind with the Empress, whom I found surrounded by a
stately group of court ladies, in the midst of whom she was decidedly
the tallest and the finest. I was led by the Emperor to a room which
seemed to be his study; he sat upon an arm-chair, and bade me also to
sit before a writing-desk filled with a large quantity of books, papers,
maps, &c., not in any particular order. After having fixed me for a
while with his whitish-grey eyes, he addressed me in a very slow voice,
saying that he congratulated me on the courage I had shown in my
perilous undertaking, and that having read my book he was the more
astonished on finding that my slight and seemingly weak frame was not at
all in proportion to the great hardships I had endured. I remarked upon
this, that I was never ill in my life, and that I did not walk in
Central Asia upon my legs, but upon my tongue, for it was only my
linguistic study which had rescued me out of the clutches of the
Central Asian tyrants. "I supposed that that must have been the case,"
said the Emperor; "but I believe there is also a good deal of dramatic
skill in you, for otherwise you would not have played successfully the
part of a mendicant dervish." The conversation turned to the ethnical
conditions of Central Asia; and the Emperor, who had finished at that
time his "Life of Cæsar," said that he was anxious to know whether the
Parthians were really the ancestors of the present Turkomans; he was
inclined to believe so, but he had been unable hitherto to establish
their identity. From the Turkomans we passed over to the ruins of Balkh.
I noticed that the imperial author was tolerably versed in the writings
of Arrian as well as in Roman antiquities in general; but his knowledge
of the modern geography of Asia was sadly deficient. He had only very
dim notions about the principal names of towns and rivers, and he had
palpably to take particular care not to betray his ignorance. On
speaking of the Yaxartes I alluded to the serious political complication
which might arise in the near future from the advance of Russia towards
India, and although he tried in the beginning to conceal his interest in
that question, he nevertheless listened with great attention, and
afterwards remarked that he could hardly believe in a collision between
England and Russia in that quarter of the world; at least not very
soon,--for whereas the English had already got a firm standing in India,
as proved by the Sepoy revolution of 1857, Russia was only on the eve of
her conquests. Diverting our conversation from the Anglo-Russian
rivalry, he continued to ask me sundry questions about Persia and Herat,
and seemed to be much pleased when I assured him that the Persian people
knew a good deal about _Napliun_, as they called Napoleon I., and that
they look upon his great-uncle as a national hero, descended from
Rustem, and that they laugh at the French, who vindicate him as their
countrymen. I remained nearly half an hour with the Emperor. I am sorry
to say he did not make upon me at all the impression of such a great man
as he was then throughout the world supposed to be.

A few days later I called upon M. Drouyn de L'huys, who showed a more
eager interest in the Central Asian question than his master. He started
by asking me whether it was true that I had given a memorandum to Lord
Palmerston on the Central Asian question, and whether I really believed
in the imminent danger of collision between the two great European
Powers in the distant East. I answered that I had not given, nor was I
asked to write any communication to the British Government, and as far
as I noticed from my conversation with the Prime Minister of the Queen
of England, they had got on the other side of the Channel quite
different views from those I held on the question.

Besides these two official receptions, I have to mention my interview
with the Prince Napoleon, who received me in the Palais Royal, and who,
whilst seated under the life-size portrait of his great-uncle, seemed to
be watching to discover whether I noticed the likeness said to exist
between him and his uncle. Well, I was really struck with the striking
similitude existing between the prominent features of both. The two
heads resembled each other, however, only in a very external form; and
there was a difference in which the Emperor's cousin would never
believe, and from this unbelief derived so many disagreeable adventures
in his life. I need scarcely say that these official visits did not
answer much to my taste. But still less did I like the intruding call of
reporters, who interviewed me and published the next day totally false
reports of my conversation with them, which I had afterwards to I
contradict, particularly as some of them announced that I was entrusted
by Lord Palmerston with a secret mission to the Tartars, and other
similar nonsense. One writer--if I remember well, a Polish prince--went
even so far as to write a novel about my travels, in which I was
represented as a champion of romantic propensities, with whom a Tartar
princess fell in love, and who, having obtained in this way some throne
in Asia, was now on a political errand in Europe to secure the
friendship of England and France in the contest against Russia. I
laughed heartily at these exalted reports; but in the end I got tired of
a dubious sort of reputation, and I left France to proceed through
Germany to my native country, where I should have to decide whether I
should settle down quietly or whether I should plunge again in new
adventures and revisit the interior of Asia.



XXXIII.

IN HUNGARY.


I have often been asked how it came about that, after my long and varied
career in Asia as well as in Europe, I made up my mind to settle quietly
down in Hungary and to look upon the Chair of Oriental Languages at the
University of Pesth as a fit reward for my extraordinary struggles in
life. It was during my first audience with the Emperor-King of
Austro-Hungary that the kind-hearted monarch asked me whether I intended
to remain in the country, and what he could do in my favour. On having
alluded to my desire for a professorship at the Hungarian University,
his Majesty suggested that such out-of-the-way studies were not much
cultivated even at Vienna, how then could I hope to find an audience at
Budapest? I remarked upon that, if nobody else would learn, I should
learn myself. The Emperor fully understood, and he kindly remarked,
"Your sufferings deserve a remuneration, and I shall look into your
case." Two or three months had scarcely elapsed, when I got my
appointment with the modest salary of one hundred pounds a year, which
sum the Hungarian Minister for Public Instruction very soon doubled; and
this, together with the income derived from the small sum I got for the
English, French and German editions of my book, fully sufficed to cover
my expenses--nay to enable me to found a family. When it became public
that I intended to marry, people generally said, "What an unhappy idea;
and what a pity for that poor girl!" People took it for sure that I must
get tired of matrimony in a very short time, and that I should leave
home, family, wife and everything, to run again after adventures in the
interior of Asia. Well, people were grossly mistaken, for neither was I
an adventurer by natural impulse, nor were all the praises bestowed upon
me strong enough to drive me again into the wilderness, or to instigate
me to renew my wanderings. It is true I was but thirty-two years old
when I returned to Europe, and although temporarily worn out by fatigue,
I regained my former strength in one year; but already I had spent
twenty years in wanderings of all sorts, and the idea of possessing my
own room, my own furniture, and my own library, made me exceedingly
happy. I revelled in the thought of being able to write down and to
publish those of my explorations which interest but a small community,
but are of so much more value.

I may conclude with the saying, "Dixi et salvavi animam." I hope I shall
never have to repent the extraordinary fatigues and troubles with which
I had to proceed on the thorny path; and if the last rays of the parting
sun of my life approach, I still shall say, "It was a hot, but a fine
day, sir!"


THE END.

UNWIN BROTHERS, PRINTERS, CHILWORTH AND LONDON.



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Transcriber's Note: The Table of Contents lists several sub-topics for
each chapter. In the original edition, these appeared as headers on
odd-numbered pages. In the HTML version of this electronic edition,
these have been placed as sidenotes adjacent to the relevant passages.

The following typographical errors present in the original edition have
been corrected.

In the Table of Contents, "Tragedy appreciated" was changed to "Tragedy
Appreciated", and a missing period was added after "XXVI".

In Chapter II, a period was changed to a comma after "from the mouths of
the Sulina, I gazed".

In Chapter IV, "I ememployed this short time" was changed to "I employed
this short time".

In Chapter X, a comma was changed to a period after "continually wagging
with an air of great importance".

In Chapter XI, "only such persons are called rowzekhans" was changed to
"only such persons are called rawzekhans".

In Chapter XIV, a missing quotation mark was added after "from Kuhi
Kaff."

In Chapter XV, "living entirely in Persion fashion" was changed to
"living entirely in Persian fashion", and a comma was changed to a
period after "their extreme excitability and irritability".

In Chapter XX, "for which are hearts had been longing" was changed to
"for which our hearts had been longing".

In Chapter XXI, "four days in the high plateau of Kaflandir" was changed
to "four days in the high plateau of Kaflankir".

In Chapter XXII, "altered appear ance" was changed to "altered
appearance".

In Chapter XXIV, a quotation mark was added after "the men we have
selected for your travelling companions", "with what heavy hearts we
looked foward to" was changed to "with what heavy hearts we looked
forward to", and "Thy glorious ancester Timur" was changed to "Thy
glorious ancestor Timur".

In Chapter XXV, "to tread with these articles amongst the nomadic
people" was changed to "to trade with these articles amongst the nomadic
people".

In Chapter XXVIII, "comtemplating the unnecessary danger" was changed to
"contemplating the unnecessary danger".

In Chapter XXIX, "the aspects of the city seems entirely changed" was
changed to "the aspect of the city seems entirely changed".

In Chapter XXXIII, "the last rays of the parting sun of my life
approaches" was changed to "the last rays of the parting sun of my life
approach".

In the advertisement for The Story of Nations, a comma was changed to a
period after "Head Master of Marlborough", a quotation mark was added
after "the charm of romance", and a misplaced period was corrected after
"as pleasurable as it is profitable".





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