LETTER XX PERILOUS TOPICS 111
has the stronger army, England or Russia? Why
England does not take Afghanistan ? Did I think the
Zil-es-Sultan had any chance of succeeding his father?
but several times reverted to what seemed uppermost in
his mind, the chances of a British occupation of Southern
Persia, a subject on which I was unwilling to enter.
He complained bitterly of Persian exactions, and said
that the demand made on him this year is exactly
double the sum fixed by the Amin-es-Sultan.
It is not easy to estimate the legitimate taxation.
Probably it averages two twnans, or nearly fifteen shil-
lings a family. The assessment of the tribes is fixed, but
twenty, forty, and even sixty per cent extra is often taken
from them by the authorities, who in their turn are
squeezed at Tihran or Isfahan. Every cow, mule, ass,
sheep, and goat is taxed. Horses pay nothing.
In order to get away from perilous topics, which had
absolutely no interest for the women, I told him how-
interested I was in seeing all his people clothed in blue
Manchester cottons, though England does not grow a tuft
of cotton or a plant of indigo. I mentioned that the
number of people dependent on the cotton industry in
Britain equals the whole population of Persia, and this
made such an impression on him that he asked me to
repeat it three times. He described his tribe as prosper-
ous, raising more wheat than it requires, and exporting
1000 tumans' worth of carpets annually.
It is curious that nomadic semi-savages should not only
sow and harvest crops, and make carpets of dyed wool, as
well as goafs-hair rugs and cloth, horse-furniture, kkur-
jinsy and socks of intricate patterns, but that they should
understand the advantages of trade, and export not only
mules, colts, and sheep, but large quantities of charcoal,
which is carried as far as Hamadan; as well as gaz, gall-
nuts, tobacco, opium, rice, gum mastic, clarified butter, the