190 JOURNEYS IN PERSIA LETTER xxv
their claim to he the subjects of a civilised power by
bowing low as often as they saw me. They are really
splendid men, and had many elements of the picturesque.
The 200 who halted in Geokahaz were under the
command of a Seyyid who, before starting, beat about
for recruits, and levied from them about five Jcrans per
head. On the journey he receives great honour as a
descendant of the Prophet. He has a baggage mule and
a tent, and the " pilgrims " under his charge gratefully
cook his food, wait on him, groom his animal, water the
dusty ground round his tent, shampoo his limbs, keep
the flies from him, and are rewarded for the performance
of all menial offices by being allowed to kiss his hand.
On his part he chooses the best stations and the most
fortunate days for starting, and he pledges himself to
protect his flock from the woful plots of malignant genii
and the effects of the evil eye. On the journey he both
preaches and recites tales.
The Seyyid in charge of this party was a man of com-
manding physique and deadly pallor of countenance.
As frigid as marble, out of which his statuesque face
might well have been carved, he received the attention
paid to him with the sublime indifference of a statue of
Buddha. The odour of an acknowledged sanctity hung
about him, and pride of race and pride of asceticism
dwelt upon his handsome features. He spent the
evening in preaching a sermon, and, by a carefully-
arranged exhibition of emotion, studied to perfection,
wound up his large audience to a pitch of enthusiasm.
The subject was the virtues of Houssein, and what preacher
could take such a text without enlarging finally upon the
martyrdom of that " sainted " man ? Then the auditors
.wept and howled -and beat their breasts, and long after
I left the singular scene, trained " cheers " for the Prophet,
for Ali, and for the martyred Hassan and Houssein, led