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LETTER xxv           AN ECCENTRIC ESCORT                      193

Kurdish women after the tottering gait of the shrouded,
formless bundles which pass for Persian women. The
men are equally handsome, and are very manly-looking.

These Kurdish villagers are Sunnis, and are on bad
terms with their neighbours, the Shiahs, and occasionally
they drive off each other's cattle.

On leaving this pleasant place early next morning the
ketchuda and a number of men escorted me for the first
farsakh, and with my escort of sowars increased by four
wild-looking " road-guards," riding as it seemed good to
them, in front or behind, sometimes wheeling their horses
at a gallop in ever-narrowing circles, sometimes tearing
up and down steep hills, firing over the left shoulders
and right flanks of their horses, lunging at each other
with much-curved scimitars, and singing inharmonious
songs, we passed through a deep ravine watered by a fine
stream which emerges through gates of black, red, and
orange rock into a long valley, then up and up over long
rolling hills, and then down and down to a large Ilyat
camp beside a muddy and nearly exhausted stream, where
they feasted, and I rested in my stiuldari.

Two or three times these " road-guards " galloped up to
shepherds who were keeping their flocks, and demanded
a young sheep from each for the return journey, and
were not refused. The peasants fear these men much.
They assert that, so far from protecting caravans and
travellers, they are answerable for most of the robberies
on the road, that they take their best fowls and lambs
without payment, and ten pounds of barley a day for their
horses, and if complaints are made they quarter* them-
selves on the complainant for several days. For these
reasons I object very strongly to escorts where they are
not absolutely needed for security. I pay each man two
toans a day, and formerly gave each two toons daily as
"road money" for himself and his horse, but finding

VOL. II                                                                         0