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52                      JOUENEYS IN" PERSIA           LETTEE xvm

people even clutched my clothing, and hands were raised
to heaven to implore blessings on me if I would attend
to them.

The whole village of Kalahoma was out, thronging,
pressing, and almost suffocating me, and the Khan's serv-
ants who came to meet me did not or could not dis-
perse the people, though every man holds his life at the
Khan's disposal. These villages, which are surrounded
by opium fields, are composed of the rudest of human
habitations, built of rough stones, the walls being only
five feet high. There is much subterranean room for
cattle. The stacks of such winter fodder as celery and
Centaurea alata, and those of kiziJcs for fuel, are larger
than the dwellings. The latter are of conical form, and
many of them are built on the house roofs.

Taimur Khan's fort and serai are in the midst of all
this, and are very poor and ruinous, but the walls are
high, and they have a lalakhana. As I approached the
ladies came out to meet me, veiled in white cotton
chadars. The principal wife took my hand and led me
through a hole in the wall, not to be called a doorway,
into a courtyard littered with offal and piled with stacked
animal fuel, and up some high dilapidated steps, into a
small dark room, outside of which are a very small "lobby"
and a blackened ladder against the wall, leading to the
roof, on which the ladies sleep in the hot weather. Some
poor rugs covered the floor, and there were besides some
poor cotton-covered bolsters. Everything, even the dress
of the ladies, indicated poverty. The dark hot room
was immediately packed with a crowd of women, children,
and babies, all appallingly dirty. It was a relief when
the Khan was announced in the distance, and they cleared
out like frightened sheep, leaving only the four wives,
who stood up at his approach, and remained standing till
he was seated.