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58                      JOURNEYS IN PERSIA           LETTER xvm

LETTEE XVIII (Continued)1


THE call to " Boot and Saddle " was at three, and I was
nearly too tired to pack in the sultry morning air. The
heat is overpowering. Khaja Taimur no doubt had
reasons for a difficulty in providing guides, which caused
delay. The track lay through pretty country, with
abounding herbage, to the village and imam^ada of Mak-
hedi. There the guide said he dared not go any farther
for fear of being killed, and after some time another was
procured. During this delay a crowd of handsome but
hardship-aged women gathered round me, many of them
touching the handkerchiefs on their heads and then
tapping the palms of their hands, a significant sign,
which throughout Persia, being interpreted, means,
" Give me some money."

The Agha is in the habit of gathering the little girls
about him and giving them brans as from his own children,
a most popular proceeding usually; but here the people
were not friendly, and very suspicious. Even the men
asked me clamorously, " Why does he give them money ?
it's poisoned, it's cursed, it's to make them blind." How-

1 From Kalahoma for the rest of the route the predatory character of
the tribes, the growing weakness of the Ilkhani's authority, the '' blood
feuds " and other inter-tribal quarrels, and the unsettled state of the Feili
Lurs, produced a general insecurity and continual peril for travellers, which
rendered constant vigilance and precautions necessary, as well as an alter-
ation of arrangements.