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Full text of "Through Persia on a side-saddle"

P.obert Charles Stuart 
Morrison-Scott 




From a photograph by Miss Alice Hughes ] 



[Frontispiece. 



r^c r.s* 




Through Persia 



on a 



Side-Saddle 



BY 

ELLA C. SYKES 



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PHOTOGRAPHS AND A MAP 



LONDON 

A. D. INNES & COMPANY, Ltd. 

1898 



p** 







THIS BOOK 

IS DEDICATED TO THE MANY FRIENDS 

WHOSE GREAT KINDNESS 

MADE MY TRAVELS IN PERSIA SO PLEASANT 



476176 



PREFACE 



THIS book has no pretensions to be either historical, 
scientific, or political, being merely the record of a 
very happy period of my existence, which I have, in a way, 
re- lived by writing about it. 

My information, however, may claim to be correct as far 
as it goes, my brother, Captain Sykes, who has travelled for 
some years in Persia on Government service, having revised 
my manuscript. 

As I believe that I am the first European woman who has 
visited Kerman and Persian Baluchistan, my experiences 
may perhaps interest other women who feel the " Wander- 
lust" but are unable to gratify their longing for adventure. 

My thanks are due to Haji Khan, a member of his High- 
ness the Farman Farma's suite, and to the Armenian photo- 
grapher at Tehran for several of the illustrations in this book, 
while the rest were taken by my brother and myself. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA ... I 

II. TEHRAN 15 

III. FROM THE CAPITAL TO FATIMA'S SHRINE AT KOOM . 31 

IV. AS FAR AS KASHAN 44 

V. ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 54 

VI. THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 68 

VII. HOUSEKEEPING AT KERMAN 82 

VIII. KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS I CO 

IX. OLLA PODRIDA II 7 

X. FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 1 34 

XI. OUR STAY IN THE HILLS 1 44 

XII. IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO . . . . 1 54 

XIII. OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 1 66 

XIV. ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH, PERSIAN LADIES AND SOME 

PERSIAN CUSTOMS l8ov^ 

XV. A PICNIC AT KERMAN 198 

XVI. LAST MONTHS AT KERMAN 212 

XVII. GOODBYE TO KERMAN 226 

XVIII. THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA . . 240 

XIX. TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION . , . 256 

XX. WITH THE PERSO-BALUCH BOUNDARY COMMISSION . 270 

XXI. TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION . . .285 

XXII. UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH .... 300 

XXIII. THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 315 

XXIV. FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 332 

XXV. TEHRAN REVISITED, AND THE JOURNEY HOME TO ENGLAND 34I 

vii 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



Facing page 
THE BAZAAR AT RESHT ...... 5 

A GATEWAY AT TEHRAN . . . . . . IjJ 

MY INVITATION TO THE PARTY IN THE SHAH'S ANDEROON . 17 

PERSIAN LADY IN INDOOR COSTUME . . . . 1 8 

PERSIAN WOMEN IN OUTDOOR DRESS . . . . 40 

THE GARDEN OF FIN AT KASHAN 50 

A DERVISH ........ 64 

THE FACADE OF THE CONSULATE AT KERMAN . . 8 1 

GROUP OF SERVANTS AT THE CONSULATE . . . .92 

DAKME, OR PARSEE TOWER, WHERE THE DEAD ARE EXPOSED I08 

NASRULLAH KHAN AND HIS FRIENDS . . . . 126 

BARGI ........ 139 

NOMAD WOMEN . . . . . . -155 

MOSQUE AT MAHUN ...... 164 

H. H. THE FARMAN FARMA AND HIS SUITE . . . 167 

COURTYARD OF THE MOSQUE AT MAHUN . . . 174 

PERSIAN WOMEN IN INDOOR DRESS .... 186 

A PERSIAN GUITAR-PLAYER ..... 206 

KALAH-I-DUKTAR . . . . . . . 213 

BREAD-TICKET ISSUED BY THE FARMAN FARMA . . 2l6 

THE LUNCHEON CAMEL ...... 234 

A BALUCHI WELL . . . . . . . 24I 

BALUCHIS . . . . . . . .252 

THE PERSIAN FRONTIER COMMISSION .... 255 

A BALUCHI BAND . . . . . . . 261 

KUHAK . . . . . . . 265 

KAIANIAN MALIK TOMB ...... 278 

DERVISH WHO ACCOMPANIED THE FRONTIER COMMISSION . 290 

MIRZA RIZA, ASSASSIN OF THE LATE SHAH . . .298 

THE CHILDREN OF H. H. THE FARMAN FARMA . . 343 

A PERSIAN GARDEN ....... 349 



THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

CHAPTER I 

THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 

THE "gorgeous East" has always possessed a strong 
fascination for me, and after reading "Eothen," that 
most delightful book of travels, the indescribable attraction 
of the Orient became, if possible, stronger than before. 

However, I never had any idea that my longings to leave 
the beaten track would be realised, and always regarded them 
merely as " Chateaux-en-Espagne " with which to while away 
idle hours. 

But Fate was kinder to me than I deserved. In June, 
1894, my brother, Captain Molesworth Sykes, returned from 
his second journey in Persia, and in the following October 
he was asked by the Foreign Office to found a Consulate in 
the districts of Kerman and Baluchistan, those parts of 
Persia having been hitherto without a representative of her 
Majesty. 

He suggested that I should accompany him, and although 
I felt somewhat uncertain as to how I should adapt myself 
to an uncivilised existence, never having quitted Europe 
before, I was delighted at the prospect opening out in front 
of me. 

We could only allow ten days for our manifold prepara- 
tions, as it was all important to cross the Elburz Range 
before the winter snows began, and I am sure that no 

2 1 



i\: :•'• -"through Persia on a side-saddle 

member of my family will ever forget the rush and hurry 
of that time. It was necessary to take sufficient clothing to 
last for over a year, to buy a complete camp equipment, and 
to lay in furniture, linen, glass, and crockery for the new 
establishment at Kerman, and, what was perhaps more 
important than anything else, to engage a maid. 

However, all was accomplished in good time, and on 
November 2nd we left London for Marseilles, travelling to 
Constantinople on a " Messageries Maritimes " boat, and 
crossing the Black Sea to Batoum on an " Austrian Lloyd." 
From this point the Trans-Caucasus railway conveyed us to 
Baku, and one of the flat-bottomed Russian boats took us 
across the Caspian, and at the beginning of December we 
reached Enzeli, the harbour of Persia. 

As the sea was somewhat rough, there was much anxiety 
among the passengers as to whether the tiny launch would 
be able to cross the breakers of the sandbar at the mouth 
of the harbour, and come out to convey us and our luggage 
from the steamer to the shore. 

If it had not done so we should have had to return in our 
steamer to Baku, and make the journey afresh, as friends of 
ours had done a fortnight previously. 

However, our luck did not desert us, and we were all landed 
safely on Persian soil, having Mr. Preece, H.B.M.'s Consul 
of Isfahan, and Mrs. Stainton, whom he was escorting to 
Tehran, as our fellow-travellers. 

I can never forget my feelings of joy and exultation when 
I realised that I was at last in Persia, on the threshold of a 
new life, which I ardently trusted might have its quantum of 
adventure. I had been civilised all my days, and now I had 
a sense of freedom and expansion which quickened the blood 
and made the pulse beat high. The glamour of the East 
penetrated me from the first moment of landing on its 
enchanted shores, and although many a time I encountered 
hard facts, quite sufficient to destroy the romantic illusions 
of most folk, yet they struck against mine powerlessly. 

I was under a spell throughout my stay in Persia — a spell 
that endowed me with rose-coloured spectacles, and which 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 3 

even as I write, fills me with a strange yearning for the 
country which became a much-loved home to me, and where 
I spent the happiest years of my existence. Yes, I was on 
Persian soil at last ! " Lalla Rookh," with its rose gardens 
in which the " bulbul " eternally sings, and its maids of peer- 
less beauty, loved by heroes of surpassing valour, with its 
brave fire- worshippers and awful Veiled Prophet, came into 
my mind, mingled with a dozen books of travel, in which the 
romance is stripped away remorselessly, and Persia, bare and 
barren as she is in reality, is exposed to the view. 

I was, in a way, prepared for much that might come by the 
perusal of Mr. Curzon's comprehensive work on Persia. Visions 
of many a fatigue and hardship rose up in my mind's eye, 
long days on horseback, short nights in desolate caravanserai 
or airy tent, the glory of the dawn, and the crimson flush of 
the sunset. And with this return to Nature, as it were, with 
this free open-air life, mingled the thought of studying a new 
race, of doing my best to see with their eyes, to enter as far 
as I could into their unfamiliar lives. For we were bound to 
the real East, where we should have none but Orientals for 
our daily society, and our home would be in a city, by con- 
trast with which Tehran would seem almost Western. 

But I fear I may have already wearied my reader with this 
digression on my private emotions, and so will begin some 
account of my journey up to the capital of Persia. 

It was the beginning of December, and Enzeli lay flooded 
in the glorious sunshine which hardly ever fails in the " Land 
of the Lion and the Sun." It looked very pretty under a 
turquoise sky, the squalid village backed by the snowy 
Elburz Range, while the harbour made quite a picture with 
vessels lying at anchor, and the Shah's smart yacht in readi- 
ness by the pavilion — a sort of glorified pagoda — to take off 
a Persian grandee, who was going to Baku in the steamer 
we had quitted to pay his respects to the new Tsar and lay 
a wreath on the grave of the late one. 

A large detachment of servants met our party on landing, 
and my brother's little Indian syce, Fakir Mahomet, seemed 
to be one gleam of white teeth in his joy at seeing his master 



4 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

again, and worked as hard as half a dozen ordinary Persians 
in his zeal to serve him. We made our way to the hotel, a 
bare, scarlet building with a long balcony, dirty, and most 
scantily furnished, and as soon as our boxes were brought up 
from the steamer we removed the dubious bedding, replacing 
it with our own, and then took a walk along the sand-dunes 
by the sea, where pelicans, vultures, cormorants, and elegant 
grey cranes were disporting themselves. Young Mr. Churchill, 
brother of H.B.M.'s Consul at Resht, joined us that after- 
noon, and his good spirits cheered us through a sort of 
Barmecide dinner, with long waits between each meagre 
course. However, I was told that this so-called hotel was 
palatial luxury compared to what we should encounter further 
on, so I felt I must not be critical. Here I tasted the Persian 
bread, or nan, for the first time — flabby, unleavened cakes 
made of coarse, brown flour. It is much more palatable when 
toasted crisp instead of being in the damp state in which it 
was offered to us, and certainly some of the varieties I ate 
later on were better than this my first attempt ; but through- 
out my stay in the country I never got quite accustomed to it. 
Next morning we started off early in two fair-sized boats 
across the great Enzeli Lagoon for Pir-i-Bazaar. We six 
Europeans sat in one under an awning, and our six rowers, 
miserable-looking ragged fellows, worked very hard, using 
their long, spoon-like oars by raising themselves almost 
upright with each stroke, at the same time emitting a sharp 
hissing noise. It took two good hours' hard rowing, aided by 
a tattered sail, to get across the Lagoon to the mouth of the 
river, up which they towed us for another two hours, while 
we ate lunch, relieved of their strong odour of garlic. The 
Lagoon was full of life. Flecks of pelicans and gulls were 
feeding ; cormorants fishing, their long, snake-like necks alone 
visible ; while cranes, ospreys, eagles, teal, and snipe flew, 
swam, or dived, all seemingly as tame as possible. Fish were 
leaping out of the transparent water, and we passed fishermen 
drawing in their nets, the spoils of which would go to supply 
the " Russian Fisheries — a line of buildings on our left where 
much of the "caviare'' of commerce is prepared. The scenery 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 5 

became quite homelike as we left the Lagoon and its islets 
of reeds and rushes, and turned into the muddy river, the 
banks of which were bordered with rowans, hollies, willows, 
and trails of briony ; but whatever the flora might be like 
there was nothing to recall England in the landing-place at 
Pir-i-Bazaar. To my dismay I found that we had to step 
into a veritable sea of liquid mud, and struggle as best we 
might along a plank sunk in mire, up a bank on to what was 
comparatively solid ground. A false step would have landed 
us in most unpleasant plight ; and it was with great relief that 
we saw our baggage carried up, as we had heard that a bride 
coming out to Tehran, had her entire trousseau ruined by her 
boxes falling into the water at this crisis of her journey. 
And, to multiply instances, the piano of another Tehran 
acquaintance could not be hoisted up that fatal bank, and 
lay for months at its foot, serving as a most convenient 
landing-stage for passengers. However, we were fortunate 
enough to escape all such mischances, and were soon packed 
into small and rickety carriages to drive the six miles to 
Resht. My experiences in Constantinople had only prepared 
me in a very small degree for the inexpressible badness of 
this road, streaming with mud and water as it was. We 
bumped in and out of holes, were nearly overturned at 
exceptionally bad bits of the road, and my companion and 
I had to cling tightly to one another to save ourselves from 
being thrown out. Every moment I felt that our dilapidated 
vehicle must perforce come to pieces, or that the insecurely 
fastened wheels must succumb to the repeated shocks as we 
jolted painfully along, and it was a relief to reach the pretty 
town of Resht embowered in autumnal-tinted trees, the red- 
tiled roofs of its houses giving it at a distance much the look 
of an English country village. 

We drove through street after street of bazaar, the long 
eaves of the houses nearly meeting overhead, and put up at 
a romantic-looking hotel, seemingly composed of stained 
glass and stucco work and standing in a garden of oranges. 

The best room had a series of plaster medallions of the 
Madonna all round its walls, a somewhat incongruous adorn- 



6 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ment in a Mohammedan country, and mirror-work in plaques 
upon the ceiling, while its windows gave on to a large blue- 
tiled tank full of goldfish. 

The English Consul and his wife showed us much hospi- 
tality during our two days' visit here, and we were specially 
glad of their company on the second day, when it poured 
incessantly, for this real Resht weather made the pretty 
hotel feel very damp and chilly, many of the little stained- 
glass window-panes being broken. When we dined at the 
Consulate on the wet night we arrived disgracefully early, as 
our carriages came to the hotel long before the time, the 
drivers insisting on our coming at once, saying they would 
not wait in the rain, and would return to their homes unless 
we did so ! 

Our hostess amused us by displaying an account-book 
kept by one of her Persian cooks, in which, as the man could 
not write, he had drawn everything in the funniest manner. 
For example, a special kind of oval meant eggs to the 
initiated, and specks piled up on a dish meant rice, while 
a jujeh, or chicken, posed as a quaint heraldic creature, 
totally unlike the ducks or pheasants delineated next to it. 
Mr. Preece, to cap this, told a story of how his cook con- 
stantly entered " bottle of English Powder " in his accounts. 
Being asked what this was, he said it was a particularly good 
baking-powder, and he produced several empty bottles of 
Eno's Fruit Salts to explain his statement ! 

The next morning we were all ready to start at ten o'clock, 
but no carriages appeared till 12.30, the drivers merely 
remarking that they had felt sure we should not require 
them till that hour. 

Mr. Churchill and his brother rode part of the way with us, 
as is the friendly custom in Persia, along a charming road 
bordered with rowans, birches, beeches, oaks, acacias, and 
pollarded willows, and having high hedges overgrown with ivy 
and maidenhair fern. Handsome little cattle wandered about 
among the trees, their humps being considered a delicacy 
when cured, and the one we got at Resht was our great 
standby on our way up to Tehran. The bridges here were 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 7 

peculiar, going up into a sharp point in the middle, the steep 
cobbled inclines being very slippery for the horses, which, 
however, galloped up and down them at a great rate. We 
passed " wattle and dab " houses with thatched roofs, strings 
of camels and donkeys, veiled women riding astride, and 
men in long coats, pleated at the waist, and wearing high 
astrachan caps. 

Our destination that night was a great bare building 
opening on to a courtyard at the back, round which were the 
stables for the horses. We mounted a dirty staircase, with 
steps of abnormal steepness, and reached the balakhana, or 
upper story (our word balcony comes from this), where we 
were agreeably surprised to find a couple of clean rooms with 
matting on the floor, and actually tables and chairs. And 
now our servants showed to advantage. They unpacked our 
belongings, covering the floors with carpets, hanging up 
curtains before the draughty doors and windows, setting up 
our folding wrought-iron bedsteads, removing the leather 
covers from the enamelled basins which contained all our 
washing apparatus, and mounting the aforesaid basins on 
wooden tripods. All our bedding was carried in " Sykes' 
Tent Valises," an invention of my brother's, patented by the 
advice of the Manager of the Army and Navy Stores. This 
valise is very handy, as, when unrolled on the camp bedstead, 
the bed is ready for use, the stout canvas of which it is made 
forming the mattress, and a bag at the head containing night 
things, dressing-gown, brush and comb, &c, which, if stuffed 
with clothes, acts as a bolster. In the morning the whole 
thing is merely rolled up and strapped — an operation taking 
about a couple of minutes. The " tent " part is a mackintosh 
sheet drawn up over the head from the feet, and kept off the 
face by iron supports which fit into the head of the bedstead. 
This is only necessary when sleeping in the open, but, on 
cold nights, I was glad to use the sheet as a quilt. By 
the time we had washed in our folding indiarubber baths, 
the servants had prepared us an excellent dinner of soup, 
pillau, woodcocks, stewed fruit and custard, everything done 
so briskly and willingly that it was a pleasure to be served 



8 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

by such men. The meal was laid on our " Paragon " camp 
tables, ingenious arrangements of laths, string, and oilcloth, 
large, light, and strong, yet folding into an absurdly small 
compass. They had the advantage of being able to be 
repaired easily, and even if considerably damaged to be 
quite fit for use. Our chairs were the " Bavystock," which 
can be made into a lounge armchair at will, or fold up flat, 
and are the best all-round article for camp work that we 
ever came across. 

As the nights were very cold we had big wood fires, or iron 
basins of burning charcoal in our rooms, and my particular 
bedding consisted of a lahaf, or wadded cotton quilt, over 
my small mattress, three woollen sheets, and three thick 
blankets all doubled, with an ulster, dressing-gown, and thick 
cape added thereto. 

On the second day's march all the baggage was started off 
on the mules by half-past seven, and we ourselves mounted 
the sorry post-horses about ten o'clock, and slowly wound up 
among the hills. 

They were thickly wooded with birches, beeches, chestnuts, 
and acacias, all gorgeous in their autumn golds and scarlets 
and pinks ; masses of maidenhair fern and harts' -tongue 
clustered about pretty waterfalls, and here and there long 
grass ** rides " stretched away among the trees, reminding us 
much of the New Forest. 

Very soon the steep parts of the road began. At times 
we had to climb veritable precipices, the horses finding 
foothold up these stony staircases with marvellous skill. 
For my part I did not attempt to guide my steed, but gave 
him his head, clung on to his mane, and fervently trusted 
that he would not slip back. I should have much preferred 
to scramble up on foot, but this was impossible, as the whole 
place was a sea of liquid mud. Coming downhill it was far 
worse, however, as the horses had to pick their way over and 
among great boulders greasy with mire. Fortunately they 
knew every step of the road, and were very clever at finding 
out the best places, frequently refusing to go where I wished, 
and if I persisted unwisely in forcing them against their 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 9 

will we invariably floundered into a series of big holes, so 
filled in with mud as to look all right to the uninitiated eye. 
They splashed along very slowly, probing each step before 
they trusted their weight to it, and being particularly cautious 
when we crossed the half-rotten plank bridges, and at 
intervals we got peeps through the forest of a long line of 
hills, flaming with rich colouring, the river flowing along 
below us in its broad bed. Just at the worst parts of the 
road we came upon ghastly mementoes of its difficulties. In 
one place lay a dead mule covered with mud, and I had to 
lash my startled horse vigorously to get him past it. A few 
paces further on we nearly stumbled over a defunct donkey 
lying across the track, and had hardly passed this when 
we came upon great camels mangled by the vultures and 
crows, horrible and pitiable sights. 

Half-way through the day we descended into the river- 
bed, where we halted and lunched to stimulate us to brave 
the further dangers of the road, which soon wound up again 
among the hills. We kept meeting trains of heavily laden 
pack-animals, and on these occasions I rode close behind 
my brother, who flicked them to one side of the path with 
his long hunting lash, their loads being carefully avoided by 
the seasoned traveller, as they could easily knock him out of 
his saddle. Mr. Preece told a tale of being met close to a 
river by two mules laden with packing-cases. One came on 
either side of his horse, and he was lifted bodily out of his 
saddle and flung right into the water ! That day we forded 
the Rud Safed (White River), and other rivers no less than 
five times, the water being occasionally unpleasantly deep, 
owing to the late rains. It was an odd sensation for me, as 
my horse never seemed to make any progress, looking, to my 
inexperienced eye, as if it were being carried down stream, 
and I invariably had a curious feeling of dizziness. We got 
to fairly level ground before we reached our destination, 
Rustemabad, where we left the rainy zone of Resht behind 
us for good, and now saw real Persian scenery — bare hills 
rising up from sandy valleys scantily sprinkled with scrub 
and tamarisk, and snow-clad peaks in the distance. 



io THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

All the chapar khanas, or post-houses, as far as Tehran 
had been wonderfully smartened up, as the British Minister 
and his party had preceded us by some three weeks, and in 
some of them the rough plaster walls were entirely covered 
with scarlet Turkey twill, which looked cosy and cheerful. 
For the most part the beams and thatch forming the roof 
were left unplastered, and I always suspected that it was 
from there that unpleasant nocturnal visitors dropped down 
upon us, consisting of three species, each one worse than the 
last ! The unwelcome presence of so many bedfellows, 
however minute, was not conducive to slumber, and I could 
often have echoed the words of the Frenchman tormented in 
a like manner, who exclaimed : " Ce ri est pas la piqtire dontje 
me plains, c'est la promenade ! " 

Our third day's march was disagreeable, the high wind 
blowing clouds of dust into our faces, and the road very steep 
in parts, quite dry, however, except through the little villages, 
which were a sea of slush between their booths. 

The heat of the sun forced us to wear double Terai hats 
and blue goggles, and it was a pleasant change when 
about half-way we reached the olive -groves of Rudbar, 
the only ones in Persia, and lay under the trees for lunch, 
the servants squatting down, opening their cooking boxes, 
and producing omelets, potato-cakes, and fasanjan in a 
wonderfully short time. This favourite Persian dish is 
composed of bits of meat steeped in a black compound of 
liquid fat, pomegranate juice and many other condiment, and 
is eaten with chilau, or plain boiled rice, but is by no means 
to the liking of every one. 

The remarkable celerity displayed by the servants was 
partly due to the fact that there were three cooks among 
them, who took it in turns to prepare our meals, and were 
keen rivals. 

Shortly after remounting we reached a precipitous descent, 
with a stream running down among the boulders which 
formed the pathway, and were met by a string of laden 
mules, escorted by a couple of men on horseback. One 
man's steed got alarmed, kicked out wildly, and would 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA u 

have rolled with its owner over the precipice if the latter 
had not sprung off promptly and then held on firmly to its 
bridle. 

The experiences of the day before had quite hardened me 
by this time, and I was positively surprised at finding that 
I was able to ride down places never imagined even in my 
wildest dreams, with scarcely a tremor, which was something 
to one who had always been a timid horsewoman. 

We crossed various streams, traversed some stony ground, 
saw a few skeletons of pack-animals by the roadside, went 
over the great Menjil bridge, notorious for the high wind 
always encountered upon it, reminding us in this respect of a 
famous bridge near Tarascon, and reached our halting-place, 
which we were warned was a nest of thieves. 

Here Mrs. Stainton was surprised to see her favourite 
servant putting a large parcel under her pillow as he arranged 
her bed, and on her inquiring what this might be, he said it 
was a purchase of clothing for himself, which he had placed 
there in safety for fear of robbery ! Next day the hills were 
very fine, composed of a sort of detritus, rising up in wild 
shapes, perfectly barren, save for a little tamarisk scrub, but 
tinted in all shades of brown and yellow and crimson, and the 
river Chinar ran at their feet. 

As usual the weather was superb ; brilliant sunshine, cloud- 
less blue skies, and a purity of atmosphere that enabled us to 
see the smallest details at a great distance. After cloudy 
England, this clearness was most deceptive, as objects several 
miles off seemed quite close, merely a five minutes' walk or so. 
In this country a panorama of over a hundred miles in extent 
may be enjoyed from the top of a mountain, as, for example, 
the Caspian Sea may be seen from Mount Demavend. Often 
at the commencement of a day's march, if over level country, 
the halting-place for the night, some thirty odd miles away, 
can be clearly discerned, and as mile after mile is traversed, 
the traveller does not seem appreciably nearer to his goal than 
when he started to reach it. 

We found the post-horses worthy little animals, carrying us 
over places that an English horse would not dream of attempt- 



12 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ing. As a rule, we went at the rate of about three miles an 
hour, slowly plodding over stony ground, my brother and I 
walking as fast as the horses when we dismounted at intervals 
to have a change of motion ; and indeed our steeds were so 
covered up that it was difficult to urge them on, as they were 
impervious to ordinary gentle reminders. 

Our fifth day's march was the critical one, as there is 
always a fear of a snowstorm blocking the Kharzan Pass, 
in the Elburz Range, which we were about to cross. We 
got up at five o'clock that morning, and everything was 
packed and ourselves mounted by half-past seven, winding 
up and down the hills in the cold grey dawn, getting higher 
and higher, until we reached the snow-line. Fortunately 
there was not much snow on the track, but what there was 
had become a mass of frozen ice, over which our horses 
floundered nervously, and it took us some hours to struggle 
to the summit of the pass, where a great circle of snow- 
covered mountains stood up round us, somewhat resembling 
the majestic panorama seen from the Gornergrat. 

The day was bright, but a bitter wind was blowing ; so we 
did not enjoy the fine sight as much as we should otherwise 
have done, especially as the wind pierced our wraps as if they 
had been made of paper. 

Low hill after low hill was crossed, and at last we got free 
of the' snow and reached Mazrah, our lunching-place, about 
half-past one, all feeling very ready for a meal after the early 
breakfast. From here we made, our way to Agha Baba, a 
picturesque village with castellated mud walls and round 
towers ; and, as we approached, the flocks and herds were 
entering its gates. From one side the buff, brown, or black 
sheep, with intelligent faces, long ears, and enormous tails, 
were streaming in, accompanied by shaggy goats, resembling 
miniature bears, and followed by the prettiest of donkeys ; 
while from the left little dark brown and black cattle 
approached, much like those in the Highlands. 

The setting sun was flooding the whole scene in a rosy 
light, glorifying the mud walls of the village, beautifying its 
dirty though picturesque inhabitants, and casting a glamour 



THE JOURNEY TO THE CAPITAL OF PERSIA 13 

and enchantment over the most sordid detail of the picture 
before us. 

We were now on the great Iranian Plateau, stretching from 
here right down south of Kerman, keeping a height of 4,000 
to 6,000 feet, thus ensuring the traveller one of the most 
superb climates in the world, bracing, exhilarating, and free 
from great extremes of heat and cold. 

Two dilapidated, prehistoric broughams were in readiness 
to convey us to Kasvin. One having no glass in its windows, 
a piece of tin, painted scarlet, was nailed on to one side to 
supply the deficiency. The much-worn velvet cushions smelt 
extremely musty, and both ramshackle vehicles jolted us 
terribly, springs being left out of their construction. 

It was nine o'clock when we reached Kasvin, which has 
the remains of past grandeur in its green-tiled mosque and 
elegant minarets, having been the royal city until Shah 
Abbas built Isfahan for his capital ; and driving up to our 
hotel along an avenue of fine trees, we found an imposing 
building with a pillared verandah and tiled facade. Inside, 
the large rooms had curtained windows, beds and washing 
apparatus, and the table was covered with dishes of apples, 
pears, pomegranates, and innumerable plates of. small maca- 
roons stuck on to sheets of paper. We hoped to have 
started off early the next morning, but our faithless mule- 
teer never turned up with his mules till past eleven o'clock ; 
so we selected in haste what baggage we should take with 
us to Tehran, and it was carefully weighed, then packed 
along with our servants info a big fourgeon, while we our- 
selves got into the rickety carriages again for our ninety- 
mile drive. 

The jolting on the so-called road was excessive, therefore 
my brother and I walked on whenever a halt was made to 
change horses, four of which dragged each vehicle. As dark- 
ness approached we passed several caravans of camels reposing 
for the night, some being the handsome, short-legged, cold 
weather ones, with great bunches of wool on their forelegs, 
and others the tall, long-legged, long-necked, ordinary kind. 
It was weird to come upon these encampments in the clear 



14 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

moonlight, the animals folded up, as it were, into heaps, two 
or three usually erect, deliberating whether to lie down or 
not. My brother and I, striding on ahead of the carriages, 
aroused the guardian dogs, who rushed out barking furiously 
at us, and we should probably have felt their teeth if we had 
not hurled stones at them liberally. 

In the rest-house that night we were amused to observe 
that a felt skull-cap, to serve as a nightcap, lay on the pillow 
of each bed ; and the hair-comb and tooth-brushes provided 
for travellers all bore signs of constant use ! 

We left for Tehran early the next morning, so as to reach 
the city before the gates closed at sunset, and the sun rose over 
the snowy Elburz Range as we drove across the great plain, 
the road improving as we neared the capital, and got our first 
glimpse of the cone of stately Demavend. 

In the distance Tehran seemed a patch of greenery set in 
the midst of a desert, but we could distinguish walls and 
buildings as we got closer, and about three o'clock reached 
one of the gateways, where we were met by a gholam 
(mounted servant) from the Legation, who galloped in front 
of the carriages, and soon after old friends of my brother's 
rode up to accompany us to our destination, the British 
Legation, where we were received by Sir Mortimer and 
Lady Durand with a hospitality and kindness never to be 
forgotten. 



CHAPTER II 



TEHRAN 



I CONFESS that I was a good deal disappointed with 
Tehran, regarded as the capital of Persia, when we 
entered the city by the Kasvin Gate, one of the twelve 
entrances covered with tiles, which depict the heroic deeds 
of Rustem and other national heroes, or portray the modern 
Persian soldier of to-day in his uniform. The gateways look 
imposing at a distance, from their size and colouring, but 
are crude and ill-executed when seen near at hand. Then 
we drove through a scantily populated district, squalid booths 
alternating with waste places or new mud buildings in course 
of erection, showing that the city had not, as yet, spread out 
to the full extent of its walls. The roads were a mass of 
loose stones on a foundation of mud, which became liquid 
after a fall of rain or snow, and every here and there were 
large holes into which some one had thrown two or three 
stones, all carriages zig-zagging across the street to avoid 
these places, the cause of which was obvious when we saw 
men digging up mud from the public highway to mix with 
chopped straw for the manufacture of sunburnt bricks ! 

High mud walls on either side hid the gardens for which 
Tehran is famous, and although these barricades were pierced 
here and there by handsome doorways, the latter seemed to 
accentuate the dirt and general tumble-down appearance of 
the streets, about which the pariah dogs prowled. The 
European quarter lies to the north of the town, in a region 
of roads bordered with trees, and boasts a tram-line, shops 
with European goods in their windows, and lamp-posts on 

15 



1 6 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

which small oil-lamps are burnt, which, however, when lit at 
night only serve to make the winter darkness visible. 

Most of the houses belonging to the different Ministers 
are here, and among them the British Legation is con- 
spicuous, being a large building in an Anglo-Indian style 
of architecture, with a clock tower, and surrounded by a 
beautiful garden containing avenues of trees and an abun- 
dance of running water. 

Four square English-looking houses standing at a little 
distance from the main building, accommodate the secretaries, 
military attache, doctor, and vice-consul, and I was puzzled 
at first to account for the presence of a stone roller on each of 
the flat roofs. It was, however, explained to me that after a 
fall of rain or snow it was imperatively necessary to roll the 
mud roofs, as if this were not done they would leak badly, 
and in all probability fall in. 

Not far from the British Legation are the headquarters of 
the Indo-European Telegraph Line, which deserves mention, 
as it is one way by which India is connected with Europe. 
The line runs from Karachi along the Persian Gulf to Bushire 
and then traverses the whole of Persia, being a wonderful 
achievement of English energy over Oriental obstructiveness. 
As in many places the wire crosses high passes, it naturally 
often gets broken down during the winter snows, and the 
telegraph clerks, whose cmty is to test it so many times daily, 
are frequently forced to sally forth to repair it, however incle- 
ment the weather may be. 

It is on record that these men, who are often many miles 
from any other Europeans in their solitary stations, have 
sometimes died in the performance of their hard task, and 
on one occasion a clerk was robbed and stripped by brigands, 
but nevertheless accomplished his work all the same. 

In Longmans" Magazine (June, 1897) there is a thrilling 
account of an attack on one of these telegraph stations, 
written by Mr. Basil Williams, who was travelling through 
Persia shortly after the events occurred that he has narrated 
so graphically. 




* — ' A , , 

/•£*■* 



•v ~ 



MY INVITATION TO THE PARTY IN THE SHAH S ANDEROON. 



TEHRAN i 7 

I took to Persia and things Persian at once, and never felt 
better in my life than at Tehran. The climate seemed to 
exhilarate me in the most delightful way, and to one accus- 
tomed to English winters it was a treat that never palled, to 
wake up morning after morning to a world bathed in brilliant 
sunshine, with perhaps a covering of crisp white snow on the 
ground. 

The intense dryness of the air was very trying to the 
nerves and general health of many of the European ladies, and 
most of them complained of it ; but for my part I revelled 
in an atmosphere in which cakes and biscuits retained their 
freshness for long periods when uncovered, and in which 
all ivory articles cracked, and wooden ones became badly 
warped, as I found to my cost at Kerman. 



During my stay at Tehran the entertainment that inte- 
rested me most was that given by one of the Shah's wives, 
the mother of the Naib-es-Sultaneh, Commander-in-Chief of 
the Persian army. Crowds of carriages were waiting at the 
gate of her palace as we drove up, and a long carpet-covered 
palisade had been erected inside the entrance, so that no 
curious eye might penetrate the recesses of the anderoon 
garden. A eunuch escorted us past this, and up an avenue 
of trees to a large building, in front of which women dressed 
in all the colours of the rainbow were squatting on the ground 
or strolling about. We ascended some stone steps, and pass- 
ing through a hall crammed with women, made our way up 
a staircase into a fine room covered with paintings by Persian 
artists. This was thronged with yet more women, who looked 
at us curiously as we were shown into an inner room with a 
long range of windows giving views of the pretty garden below 
and the grand Elburz Range beyond, white with snow. 

Here were assembled the Shah's many wives, who received 
us very graciously, and most of the female aristocracy, 
European and Persian, of Tehran were present. 

All the Persian ladies wore loose-sleeved jackets of the 
richest brocades and velvets, and had short, much-stiffened- 

3 



18 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

out trousers, which did not reach to the knees, and gave them 
somewhat the look of a European ballet-dancer, the costume 
completed with coarse white stockings or socks. Before the 
Shah went to Europe the Persian ladies all kept to the old 
national costume of long, loose, embroidered trousers, but on 
the return of the monarch, this present ungraceful costume 
became the fashion in the royal anderoon, and has spread 
throughout the whole country, it being, I believe, a fact that 
the dress of the Parisian ballet-girls so greatly fascinated 
the Oriental potentate that he commanded it to be adopted 
at once by his wives. 

Over this, which is the usual indoor dress, was a long, 
shapeless piece of brocade, covering the back and all the 
lower part of the body, and sticking out in a comical manner 
from the waist, for all the world as if its owner were wearing 
a crinoline. 

A square of stiff white muslin was bound round the head 
and hung down behind, concealing the hair, which was worn 
loose or in plaits. 

The portly mother of the " Naib," was clad in pale green 
brocade and velvet, and her stout son in a dark blue uniform 
and kolah (high black lambswool hat) sat beside her on a 
gilt chair, as did all the rest of the company. 

The favourite wife was brilliant in a vivid blue silk, and the 
majority of the ladies wore fine jewels, big rubies, diamonds, 
and emeralds galore, buttons of precious stones, bracelets and 
necklaces of pearls, and sometimes the entire front of the 
jacket a mass of diamonds, sewn on in patterns. We sat and 
sipped tea or sherbet, partook of sweetmeats and biscuits, 
handed round by slaves as gaudily attired as their mistresses, 
and watched these latter smoke kalians. 

This pipe is composed of a bowl for the water, above which 
is an elaborately adorned holder for the burning charcoal and 
tobacco, the whole thing corresponding to the Turkish hubble 
bubble. I never thought that it was a very satisfactory inven- 
tion, as it is troublesome to light, and when ready, the smoker 
only enjoys half a dozen puffs or so, a servant sucking at it 
for some seconds, first of all, to get rid of the fumes of char- 




PERSIAN LADY IN INDOOR COSTUME. 



TEHRAN 19 

coal, and then bringing it to his master or mistress at the right 
moment. 

All Persian ladies delight in the kalian, and when they 
visited me later on they used to beg me to follow their 
example, but although a Persian proverb says, " If you 
are in a room be of the same colour as the people in it," 
I always declined, as it was not pleasant to put my lips to the 
same tube at which a servant had been vigorously puffing ; 
although such trifles do not weigh with Orientals. Some of 
the Europeans who mix much with Persians are in the habit 
of carrying their own mouthpieces with them, and it is a good 
plan, as the mollahs, and the especially strict followers of 
the Prophet, consider a European touch a defilement. 

On the occasion of this royal party, I wished very much 
that I could have talked Persian, as one lady in a magnificent 
cashmere shawl examined my bangles without ceremony, 
laughing pleasantly as she thrust her hands into my muff, 
which was handed on to others to examine, and looking quite 
disappointed when her efforts to draw me into conversation 
were in vain. I did not see a really good-looking woman 
among the crowds present, although most of the ladies 
had quite fair complexions, regular features, and fine eyes. 
The wives were all very stout, and to European ideas the 
lengthening of their eyebrows with streaks of kohl so as 
to make them meet, and also to be double their natural 
breadth, was not becoming ; neither did I appreciate the 
occasional little kohl moustaches, nor the thickly rouged and 
powdered cheeks and the henna-tinted nails. 

There was a sad lack of intelligence on most of the faces, 
which, however, all at once brightened up, and there was quite 
a commotion among the throngs of women as the Shah entered 
the room. His wives pressed forward smirking and smiling, 
only to be waved aside by their royal master, a European lady 
doing the honours of his court, and presenting us in turn to 
him. Lady Durand then sat beside his Majesty on a gilded 
couch, and they chatted in French, while I observed the 
splendid rubies and diamonds decorating the front of the 
Shah's uniform, the well-known diamond aigrette, and his 



20 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

trick of pushing up his spectacles on to the front of his 
kdlah at intervals. He was accompanied by Sultan Aziz, 
the youth who is always with him, and whom he regards as 
a sort of fetish, believing that his royal life depends in some 
way on that of his favourite, who looked about twelve, but 
was, in reality, aged eighteen. 

After awhile the monarch rose, and calling out " Etrennes ! 
etrennes /" presented each European lady with a small gold 
coin, as a memento of her visit, and then he, the Naib, and the 
" fetish " retired, and dancing commenced. 

Half a dozen women sang (to my ears the performance was 
a series of howls and yells!) thumping on a sort of tambourine 
and a tom-tom. One scraped a bow across a melon-shaped 
stringed instrument, while another emitted doleful sounds 
from a species of zither struck with two small wooden spoons. 

The first dancer was a little girl about ten years old, dressed 
in crimson velvet, with a short, stiff skirt, and long expanse of 
white-stockinged leg. Her hair hung down in multitudinous 
plaits, a coin at the end of each, and she postured and came 
forward with her legs bent, progressing by pushing her feet 
from side to side, a peculiarly ungraceful movement which 
elicited much applause from the spectators. Then she knelt 
and screamed a weird song, clacking metal castanets as an 
accompaniment to her voice. 

A second small damsel, clad in purple velvet, now appeared, 
and went through the same shuffling performance, which she 
accentuated by raising her eyebrows alternately, and smiling 
so impertinently at the assembled ladies, that I fancy it would 
have relieved the feelings of some of the Europeans present to 
have boxed her ears ! Two scarlet-clad sisters succeeded these 
performers, and their great feat was to bend their bodies right 
back until their heads touched the ground, and then to raise 
themselves very slowly, crimson in the face from their exer- 
tions. 

After awhile the head-wife clapped her hands, and the 
entertainment was adjourned to the garden, where we sat 
in a circle, and the eunuchs, stout, ungainly fellows, pushed 
their mistresses about unceremoniously, bursting into their 



TEHRAN 21 

conversation on every occasion, and seemingly on the best 
of terms with them. 

The little sons and grandsons of the Shah stood round 
about, and a dwarf was pointed out to me, said to be sixty or 
seventy years old, but in appearance a boy often. A renegade 
Armenian woman, in a shabby European blouse and skirt, 
performed a dance, which, to the uninitiated, appeared a series 
of ungraceful jerks, the idea being that she was trying to 
make a salaam but did not know how to do it. 

When we came away we passed many ladies waiting 
for their carriages, completely shrouded, in great black 
chaddars, which only permitted a glimpse of full, green 
trousers, their faces being entirely concealed with a white 
covering fastened with a jewel at the back of the head, 
and having a strip of lace-work in front of the eyes. 

I was told that many of the fine ladies we had met that 
afternoon would give large sums in the European shops 
at Tehran for any brocade or silk which struck their fancy, 
and would wear it at the next party to which they invited 
their friends, flauntitig the new toilette ostentatiously before 
them to fire their jealousy. Usually, however, one of the 
guests would pay her hostess out by buying some more 
of the same material and having it made up for one of 
her slave-women. She then would invite a large company 
to tea, and the cups would be handed round by a negress 
adorned in the rich silk with which the quondam hostess 
is probably arrayed, and later on, the same slave would 
dance before the assembled guests, to the intense morti- 
fication of one and the equally keen amusement of the 
others. 

In passing it may be well to make mention of the karsi that 
I noticed in one of the rooms of the palace, and which is an 
ingenious arrangement for having a most economical fire 
during the winter months. A circular hole in the floor 
is filled with burning charcoal, and standing over it is a 
sort of wooden table covered with lahafs, under which the 
women creep for warmth, hardly leaving the spot either by 
day or by night. 



22 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

The " At Home " that I have just described was a great 
contrast to another at which I was present a few days later. 

On this occasion we were ushered into a grand European 
drawing-room, where the cut-glass chandeliers and silk-shaded 
lamps, the handsomely upholstered chairs and couches, and 
the statuary and flowering plants gave me a feeling of surprise 
that the hostess had not adopted European dress likewise- 
She was a well-mannered, elderly woman, speaking only 
Persian, but her daughter-in-law was very different, being 
a girl of about three- or four-and-twenty, clad in a gorgeous 
pink brocade, loaded with lace, and made in an ugly European 
style, her hair fastened back with a ribbon, and diamonds in 
her ears. She had been educated in Constantinople, spoke 
French fluently, played the piano passably, and was, I fear, 
miserable in Tehran, telling me frankly that it was all very 
well to receive visitors in her own home, but that as she was 
never permitted to return their visits she found life somewhat 
dreary. The eunuch brought in a real English tea-tray, and 
the daughter-in-law poured out tea, handing round milk and 
sugar quite a PAnglaise, and afterwards we had a stroll in 
the fine gardens with their fountains and long avenues. I bade 
goodbye to this Europeanised Persian with regret, feeling that 
her lot was by no means a happy one, and being reminded of 
the caged starling in the Bastille that all day long kept crying 
" Let me out ! let me out ! " 

On one occasion we made an expedition to the bazaars, 
passing on our way through the Tupkhana Meidan, Artillery 
Square, grandiose and crude like the twelve gateways, which 
are indeed the most characteristic features of Tehran, a city so 
singularly deficient in mosques and their attendant minarets. 
This is owing to the fact that it is practically a modern town, 
being taken by Agha Mohammed Khan for his capital 
not much more than a hundred years ago, as being more 
in touch with the Turki tribe from which the Kajar dynasty 
sprung, than was Isfahan, the old royal city. At one end 
of the square is the Persian Bank with a brilliantly coloured 
stucco facade, and on two sides are the low artillery barracks, 
ornamented with a long series of bas-reliefs of the " Lion and 



TEHRAN 23 

the Sun " on a red ground, both the animal and the luminary 
having queer, semi-human faces. There is always plenty 
of life and colour in the Meidan. Soldiers in shabby blue 
uniforms with red facings, and old-fashioned red-tufted 
shakoes, lounge about, escorting the Naib as he drives to 
the palace in his brougham ; or bestride camels, sitting 
aloft on their bedding with their cooking utensils hanging 
about them ; or perform the strange military music which 
Mr. Curzon has described so feelingly. 

Passing through this square and under an ornate gateway, 
we had a glimpse of the Ark or palace of the Shah, a beau- 
tiful feature of which are two towers close together, forming 
one pavilion and entirely covered with brilliant tiles. No 
windows are to be seen on the sides towards the street ; but 
there are charming balconies, adorned with pilasters and 
encrusted with mirror work which flashes and gleams in the 
sunshine. 

The Bazaars themselves are a network of vaulted passages, 
lighted from above, and leading into courts and spacious halls 
at intervals, some of these latter having beautifully tiled 
stucco roofs in the honeycomb pattern. European goods 
of the shoddy order vastly preponderate over the Eastern 
products, Tehran clothing itself from the West, while 
Austria supplies every kind of inferior crockery and cutlery, 
with masses of the cut-glass candelabra and lustres, so dear 
to the Persian soul. 

Laden camels, mules, and donkeys struggle along the 
passages, while horsemen push their way among the pedes- 
trians, who never trouble to give any one room to pass, the 
veiled women gazing intently at small cases of jewellery 
being the chief offenders, as they bargain furiously for a 
pair of earrings or a tawdry-looking brooch. 

It was interesting to watch the making of brass jugs and 
basins for rose-water, the fashioning of kolahs, the turning of 
Kalzan-tops, and the adorning of travelling trunks. These 
latter are very roughly made of strips of deal, and then 
covered with leather, dyed red, which is painted with black 
patterns according to the fancy of the artist. The boxes are 



24 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

then strengthened with long strips of tin nailed at intervals 
all round the sides, and the cumbrous articles are complete. 

The sweetmeat stalls were quite a sight, displaying large 
sugar-candy bowls with stalagmites of candy branching up 
from the bottom, almond paste, toffee and macaroons of every 
description ; while some of the confectioners seemed to be 
engaged in a tug-of-war, pulling boiled masses of sugar, until 
the stuff sprang apart into the finest threads. 

The clothes stalls had a few green and blue silk undercoats 
for the men, and gauze veils and embroidered velvet jackets 
for the women ; but these were entirely swamped by the 
dingy browns and blacks and greys of the great majority of 
the garments. 

It was forcibly borne upon me that here was by no means 
a place to shop for the traveller in search of carpets and 
curios. The trade in such things seemed to be entirely in 
the hands of the dellals> or merchants, men in turbans and 
flowing robes, who came frequently to the Legation, carrying 
big bundles, from which they produced all manner of 
treasures, coins, silks, brass-work, embroideries, handsome 
old velvets, brocades and what not. They would leave their 
goods for days in our possession, coming at intervals to 
haggle about the price if we wished to purchase some par- 
ticular article, and asking double or treble its value at first, 
as a matter of course. 

Having heard of the celebrated turquoise mines in Nishapur 
in Khorassan (the place where Omar Khayyam lived and 
died), I thought I should like to purchase some of these 
stones, but found the prices very high. As a matter of fact, 
we obtained some later on at Kerman from a merchant of 
our acquaintance. This man had quantities of turquoises of 
all sizes and with every kind of flaw, set for the most part in 
rough silver rings to sell to the Baluchis. He only possessed 
three stones of any value, telling us that, fond as Persians are 
of jewellery, no one in Kerman was rich enough to purchase 
them. We quite believed him, for the gentry of that place 
seemed very poor, living on the produce of their lands, and 
without any ready money. 



TEHRAN 25 

During my walks and rides about Tehran I often wished 
that the Persians had kept to the brilliant clothes worn by 
their ancestors. The European trousers, always out of 
shape from their owner's habit of squatting on his heels, the 
drab frock-coat, much pleated at the waist, and the black 
lamb's wool kolah affected by the townsmen, making prince 
and servant look precisely alike to the uninitiated eye, give 
but little idea of what one has always been led to expect in 
the East. 

I was assured by Persians that this costume was a copy of 
the old French Court costume, and they appeared hurt when 
I inquired what had become of the lace cravats and ruffles, 
the handsome buttons, and the lappets ; while they were 
quite incredulous when it was represented to them that silk 
stockings and buckled shoes were necessary to complete the 
toilette ! Turbans are discarded by all save the mollahs 
(priests), the merchants, the hajis (those who have made the 
pilgrimage to Mecca), and the seyids (descendants of the 
Prophet). 

The peasants have loose blue cotton blouses and trousers, 
a cloth swathed round the waist, holding bread, tobacco, and 
money, and a yellow felt skull-cap on the head ; while during 
the winter the soldiers are huddled into old brown overcoats, 
and the shapeless black-shrouded women are a dreary sight, 
especially in wet or snowy weather, when they flip-flap 
through mud and slush in the thinnest of heelless slippers. 

The townsfolk were quite as fair-complexioned as Italians, 
and, as a rule, were tall, well-built men, with handsome 
features and large dark eyes, although often the upper classes 
were delicate and undersized, owing to their unhealthy mode 
of life. 

From highest to lowest their manners were most courtly, 
and the nation prides itself on a knowledge of etiquette and 
a profuse use of elegant phrase and compliment. For 
example, the British Minister told me that the words " Tele- 
gram received " were expanded, on reaching him, into " The 
message of the most exalted threshold has become a place 
of pilgrimage ! " " Your place is empty ; " " May your 



26 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

shadow never grow less," are usual forms of greeting ; 
although it must be confessed that, with all their love of 
politeness, the Persians are by no means behindhand in 
vituperation, should occasion require it. 

" Pider-i-sucht" " son of a burnt father," is a common 
expression, referring to the supposed abode of the relative 
in question, and our servants used frequently to reduce 
one another to tears by their ingenuity in casting asper- 
sions upon the belongings of those whom they wished to 
insult. 

During our visit to Tehran the Shah had a big review of 
all his troops on a gravelly plain below his palace of Doshan 
Tepe, which is a group of white buildings on a hill, some two 
or three miles outside the city, and reached by a road 
bordered with poplars. His Majesty was mounted on a 
bay horse, and his kolah and as much of the breast of his 
uniform as his fur overcoat revealed, positively sparkled with 
precious stones. The large plain was scattered with troops, 
and we had a good view of the march-past, the shabby 
infantry approaching the saluting point in waving lines, 
hopping every now and then to get into step, while the 
outside men gave little runs at intervals to keep up with the 
rest. The cavalry, however, was a decided improvement on 
the infantry, the so-called Cossacks in full white linen coats 
to their heels, and white sheepskin caps, having some dash 
about them, though it was odd to see the long tails of their 
horses knotted up to keep them out of the dust, while the 
finest men were the Shah's gholams, or bodyguards, who 
rode past in detachments on horses with silver collars and 
trappings. There were about six bands of music altogether, 
the conductors dancing along in front of their men and 
giving great leaps from sheer excitement, as they waved 
their batons frantically. One band was composed of boys 
of all ages, wearing a sort of caricature of a hussar uniform ; 
and most of the others were clad in almost as many different 
uniforms as there were men. 

We were at Tehran altogether for seven weeks, instead 
of the three we had intended to spend in the capital, as, 



TEHRAN 27 

on the day of our would-be departure, my maid was pro- 
nounced unfit to travel, and we were obliged to prolong 
our stay. 

Feeling that I should have to start housekeeping very soon, 
I asked all my lady friends for hints on this momentous 
subject, and it was not very encouraging to hear on all sides 
accounts of the thievish propensities, uncleanly habits, and 
numberless other delinquencies of the Persian servant. One 
lady assured me that a head-waiter, whom she had dismissed, 
had tried his hardest to injure her ever since. Articles of 
clothing sent home from the wash were torn in an unaccount- 
able way, and inquiry elicited that Akbar Mirza had been 
seen in close conversation with the washerman. Far worse 
than that, one of my friend's carriage horses was killed by 
means of a nail driven into its foot, and, strange to say, Akbar 
Mirza had been at the forge that day during the operation of 
shoeing the poor animal. All sorts of movable property 
began to disappear from the house, until it was discovered 
that the dismissed servant was in collusion with the lady's 
bargi, or maid, and he had to turn his talents in another 
direction. His great ingenuity prevented any of these mis- 
deeds being brought home to him, and he tried yet another 
malicious trick, when waiting at table at the house where my 
friends were dining. Ice pudding was handed round by 
Akbar Mirza, and, as is customary in Persia, the waiter puts 
the cream ready into the big serving spoon, so as to save 
the guests the bother of cutting it for themselves. My friend 
put her spoonful on her plate, and at the first mouthful found 
she had all but swallowed a pin, that lay concealed in her 
portion of the pudding. She felt Akbar's intense gaze of 
expectation, and was convinced that he alone was the culprit ; 
but it was useless to make a fuss about the matter, as the 
whole blame would inevitably have been thrown upon the 
cook. 

Another lady gave me an account of what happened to her, 
when her husband left her at their house in the country and 
took a short tour round Demavend. After a couple of days 
the entire body of servants deserted her and spent their time 



28 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

in the Bazaars at Tehran, leaving her and the children with- 
out any food in the house. 

As it is practically impossible for a European to buy any- 
thing for his or herself, and as meat is always got in daily 
during the summer heats, my friend spent an unpleasant 
twelve hours, until the return at nightfall of her semi- 
intoxicated men. She then summoned one of the secretaries 
of the British Legation to her aid, and his prompt action 
greatly improved matters, all the Persian servants having a 
great respect for the Feringhee Sahib, and very little for the 
khanum (mistress), unless she has a man to back up her 
authority. 

I was particularly warned to keep a watchful eye on any 
jewellery or small silver trifles that I might happen to possess, 
the servants being in the habit of carrying such objects off to 
the Bazaar for sale. The coveted article is removed, and if 
its owner notices its loss at once, and makes inquiries in all 
directions, it will probably be replaced ; but if any length of 
time elapses before the discovery of the theft, it will already 
have been sold. A gentleman told me that on more than one 
occasion he had seen valuable objects, which he recognised as 
belonging to some of his friends, exposed for sale in the 
Bazaars, the rightful owners never realising their loss until 
informed of it by him. 

The Christmas gaieties were beginning at the time of our 
visit, and every one was goodness itself to us, so that we 
had our fill of amusement, which was the more enjoyable 
to me, as I had the opportunity of conversing with half a 
dozen different nationalities at each party — a novelty which 
I much appreciated. 

My brother had bought several horses for our prospective 
journey, which we named as a rule, after their former owners. 
I did not know at the time that this would be taken greatly 
amiss by the Persians, to whom they had belonged, as these 
Orientals believe that in such a case their health and even life 
will in future depend on that of the horse. 

On my return to Tehran some two years later it was quite 
pathetic to observe the almost frenzied eagerness with which 



TEHRAN 29 

a Persian gentleman inquired about the welfare of a horse 
that he had sold us, and that I laughingly told him was 
called by his name as a compliment. Until then we had not 
the faintest idea that such " compliments " are not appreciated 
in Persia ! 

As horses are supposed to be peculiarly liable to the 
evil eye, every well-regulated stable has a wild boar within its 
precincts, which animal is considered to possess the power 
of warding off the malign influence, and usually goes out 
exercising with its equine proteges. 

During the first part of our stay at Tehran, the English got 
up paper-chases on horseback, and several Gymkhanas^ where 
tent-pegging and lemon-cutting were practised, and the ladies 
tried their skill at " tilting at the ring." The snow began 
just after Christmas, making the streets almost impassable on 
foot, so that it was a decided improvement when the real cold 
commenced a few days after the New Year. On New Year's 
Day Lady Durand received nearly every European in Tehran 
at the Legation. It was most amusing to me to see English, 
French, Germans, Austrians, Russians, Belgians, Dutch, Turks, 
and Persians pouring in, in an unending stream, each man 
sipping a cup of tea, making a few conventional remarks, and 
then hurrying off on his weary round of visits. Very few 
ladies assisted at this function, but I was interested in one 
funny little couple, he a Frenchman, she an Englishwoman, 
and neither speaking the language of the other. They ex- 
plained that they had conducted their love-making in Persian, 
which was the language they had in common ! 

Two pathetic " Sceurs de Charite " with enormous flapping 
white caps arrived from their hospital at the Kasvin Gate. I 
feared Persia did not suit them as well as it did me ; for 
one Sister, who had been fourteen years at Tehran, was 
merely an animated skeleton, and both ladies confessed to 
suffering constantly from fever. 

As the winter was an unusually cold one there was 
excellent skating, the lakes of Yusufabad and Kasr-i-kajar, 
some three miles from the city being frozen hard, and on this 
latter lake, in one of the Shah's gardens, we spent several 



30 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

most delightful afternoons. The palace of the Shah, which 
is built above it, has been compared by travelled Persians 
to Windsor Castle ; but considering that it is merely a huge, 
white, barrack-looking building, standing on the summit of 
several terraces, its claims to architectural beauty are hardly 
worth the mention. 

The long Elburz Range, used to look magnificent as we 
returned to Tehran at sunset, its freshly fallen snow being 
flooded with a soft rose-light, which gradually became deeper 
and deeper, and seemed to throb and flush, as it reached 
its climax. Then, as the sun sank, chilly green-grey shadows 
crept up, chasing away the glory from peak after peak. But 
Demavend was always the last to yield, and when all the rest 
of the landscape looked cold it kept a rosy light on its cone, 
a sort of crown, which gradually diminished until it, too, 
was enveloped in gloom. 

No other peak is comparable to this semi-extinct volcano. 
It is the great feature of the landscape, and every traveller to 
Tehran comes to feel a personal affection for it, as he sees its 
clear-cut pyramid defined, day after day, against a brilliant 
sky. Or perhaps it may be illumined with sunlight, while 
the rest of the mountains are covered with black clouds, 
the storm as it breaks seeming to respect mighty Demavend, 
around which half the legends of Persia take their rise. 

On January 31st we made our second attempt to leave 
Tehran, and this time it was successful. I felt the parting 
far more than if we had left when we first intended, and 
no words of mine can adequately describe the exceeding 
kindness we had met with on all sides. As I said good- 
bye to the Durands and our Legation friends it was almost 
as if I were leaving home again. 

We were escorted for a stage out of the city, through inter- 
minable squalid streets, past the little railway which runs 
to the shrine of Shah Abdul Azim, and into the country, 
along a tree-bordered road. Then we stopped and said last 
farewells, and thus were speeded on the long journey which 
lay before us. 



CHAPTER III 

FROM THE CAPITAL TO FATIMA'S SHRINE AT ROOM 

IT was midwinter when we left Tehran at the end of 
January, and the bare, deserted-looking country lay 
white and cold around us, an icy wind blowing from the 
ranges of snow-covered hills. The " great cold " was sup- 
posed to be past by this time, but I fancy that this year it 
had encroached upon the season sacred to the " little cold," 
as the dirty, draughty rooms of the Karizek Mehman Khana 
were below freezing-point, and somewhat depressing after 
the comforts of the Legation. This guest-house was one of 
several constructed by the English Company, when they 
made their excellent road from Tehran to Koom, and though, 
like all things in Persia, it had partly fallen into disrepair, yet 
we looked back upon it, and upon all the other rest-houses 
along this route as palaces in comparison with the chapar 
khanas and serais, the unpleasant acquaintance of which we 
were to make later on. 

There are only two carriage-roads in Persia — one from 
Kasvin to Tehran, and the other from the capital to Koom. 
This latter might pass muster even in England, and is very 
different to the rough track from Kasvin, with the frequent 
broken places, which make it almost impassable after heavy 
snow or rain. However, as we were riding, the quality of the 
road was not of great importance to us. 

At Karisek we were joined by Nasrullah Khan, a Persian 
gentleman of good family, who was to act as secretary to my 
brother, and who proved a most pleasant addition to our 
party, being more or less anglicised in his ideas, the result of 



32 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

an education in England, and it was owing to his kindness 
that I gained a good deal of information about Persian 
manners and customs, as he was always ready to enlighten 
me on these points. 

Until we got to Koom the nights were bitterly cold, as no 
curtains could keep the wind from blowing in at the holes 
which often did duty for windows, or whistling under the 
doors, which were too much warped to shut properly. We 
made ourselves as comfortable as we could, spreading carpets 
on the mud floors and lighting big wood-fires, in spite of 
which our water and sponges would be frozen every morning 
when we reluctantly turned out of bed before sunrise. 

I remember in particular one night at Hassanabad, when 
the cold was intense. Try as we would, we could not manage 
to get the room in which we dined above 34 , though a big 
wood-fire was blazing, and five people were in it, not to speak 
of carpets on the floor, and curtains nailed against the rickety 
doors. We drank hot brandy and water, shivered under our 
wraps ; and for my part I felt a great sympathy for the 
Esquimaux when it was time to wash and dress the next morn- 
ing. Every traveller blames them roundly for their want of 
cleanliness, but, after my experience at Hassanabad, I shall 
ever have a fellow-feeling for them ! Our bill for firewood up 
to Koom was tremendous, as we were obliged to supply it 
liberally to the stable, and our various hosts sold it at famine 
rates. 

As soon as we were dressed in the mornings the servants 
would rush into our rooms, packing up bedding, carpets, and 
washing apparatus, while we ate our breakfast in haste. That 
finished, everything was cleared away to the last chair, and we 
were left in an utterly bare room, with nowhere to sit, save on 
the mud floor of dubious cleanliness. Here we must stay until 
the mules were all loaded up and well started off by nine 
o'clock. If we rode on ahead we should only reach our next 
halting-place hours before they did, and must wait, minus 
servants, food and fire, until their arrival; for absolutely 
nothing can be bought in these places as a rule, although 
occasionally some soi-disant landlord, more enterprising than 



TO FA TIMA'S SHRINE A T KOOM 33 

his fellows, may provide firewood, a cup of tea, and a bit of 
coarse bread. 

Sometimes, when tired of standing by the embers of the 
wood-fire, we would brave the piercing wind, and go out on to 
the raised mud terrace in front of the building to watch the 
mules start. They were fifty in number, fine animals with high 
pack-saddles, hung with bells, and the head muleteer's white 
horse, decked with masses of brilliantly coloured, big woollen 
tassels, always led the procession, and was an imposing animal 
to look at. Some of the mules carried enormous bells, one on 
each side, which emitted full, deep tones, and must have been 
most uncomfortable, as, besides being very heavy, they knocked 
against their ribs at each step, v 

We were now travelling in an uncivilised country, and 
needed stores of every description, as our route lay practically 
through a desert region. Therefore we had packed supplies 
of rice, tea, coffee, sugar, flour, wine, jam, dried fruit, &c, 
enough to last us for a fortnight, in two stout wooden boxes, 
and replenished them, as required, from the big cases full of 
stores which we were carrying along with us. The servants 
all fed themselves, as is customary in Persia, getting a 
kran (4jd.) extra for each day that they were on the march, 
and a good outfitting allowance at Tehran in addition to 
their ordinary wages. 

Our personal staff consisted of nine servants. First on the 
list came Sultan Sukru, an Indian cavalry N.C.O., who was to 
assist in mapping and surveying. My brother thought so 
highly of this man, who had accompanied him throughout his 
second journey in Persia, that he had taken him home to 
England, where he had greatly enjoyed a four months' stay in 
London, and was a most conspicuous figure in the streets that 
summer. He spoke English fairly well, was quite a gentleman 
in his way, and would have scorned to do anything mean. He 
once remarked to me that if he "ate the bread" of any one, he 
felt he must do his utmost to serve that man, and indeed he 
carried out his principles into practice with us, being most 
loyal to our interests. 

The Indian syce (or groom), Fakir Mahomet, came next, a 

4 



34 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

little man to whom I became quite attached. He was devoted 
to his horses, and a jack-of-all -trades, being cook, saddle- 
maker, cobbler, carpenter, and tailor as required. He had 
also been with my brother before, and had awaited him during 
the summer at Tehran. So curiously fond was he of his Sahib 
that if the latter were displeased with him he would be 
unable to eat or sleep, so he affirmed, until restored to favour. 

The rest of our servants were Persians, chief of whom was 
Hashim, the good-looking young pishkidmet, or waiter. He 
took a great interest in us and our belongings, and was ever 
anxious to join in our conversation, as he had picked up a little 
French and less English at Tehran. The cook, Seyid Abu,, 
a descendant of the Prophet, who wore a green waistcoat to 
signify his illustrious ancestry, was clever, dishonest, and 
thoroughly unscrupulous as to his method of " doing " us 
by hook or by crook. On the march he was entrusted with 
the buying of supplies; but as he always made out his bills 
with an average of fifty eggs a day, and meat and fowls in 
proportion, his office was transferred to Sultan Sukru shortly 
after we reached Kerman, by which time I had sufficiently 
mastered Persian to be able to housekeep on my own account. 

All the servants looked most picturesque on the road. 
Hashim, for example, tied a gorgeous red, yellow, and 
purple drapery over his astrachan kolah, wrapping it round 
his ears and under his chin ; and was, moreover, huddled in 
a shapeless, cinnamon-coloured garment, lined with vivid 
green silk ; completing his costume with big top-boots and 
two pairs of purple woollen gloves, drawn one over the 
other. All of them had similar vagaries in the way of 
clothing, the syce favouring a white drill suit, which only 
lasted clean the day of the start, and another a European 
ulster, which contrasted oddly with his felt skull-cap, swathed 
in a magenta silk handkerchief, the long fringe of which was 
for ever hanging into his eyes. 

Each servant saw that his mule was loaded with his 
bedding and personal property, then mounted on to the 
pile with some difficulty, seized the rope attached to the 
animal's head, and started off, steering his steed with this, 



TO FAT/MA'S SHRINE AT KOOM 35 

and kicking his legs against its sides to hasten its move- 
ments. The cook was our boldest rider, and frequently 
came to grief, as he insisted on galloping, and as often as 
not was seen flying over the head of his mount, which he 
would then capture and remount good-humouredly, in spite 
of the chaffing of the other servants who looked upon his 
mishaps as a sign that he had not attended to his religious 
duties that day ! 

All Persians muffle up their heads in winter, tying them 
in so many wraps that it is useless to address a question to 
any of them on the march. They do not seem to feel the 
cold in other parts of their bodies, and I have often seen 
cotton-clad peasants riding barefoot on donkeys, yet with 
their heads and faces so covered up that only the eyes were 
visible. 

Besides our personal attendants there were some twelve 
to fifteen muleteers, who loaded up their animals every 
morning, walked alongside them all day, and, on getting into 
camp, were most energetic in unloading, giving a helping 
hand to the servants, and later on currycombing their 
charges with an iron instrument that rattled curiously. 
They were fine, handsome, wiry fellows, who could walk 
many hours without fatigue. Their usual dress was a loose 
jacket of a sort of glorified sacking, gheleem by name, woven 
in stripes of red, blue, and brown, below which peeped out 
the ends of two or three long shirts made of gay-coloured 
cottons, and they wore short, blue cotton trousers, and bound 
their sinewy legs with puttis, while their givas, or rag-shoes, 
were very long, with the toe part curling over the foot. 
(These givas are incomparable for mountaineering, the soles 
being made of compressed rags, which never slip over the 
boulders and stones, and the " uppers " of a coarse, cotton 
crochet-work). In bad weather they donned huge felt cloaks, 
which also formed part of their bedding at night, rendering 
them almost impervious to cold, but being by no means 
ideal garments in heavy rain. 

Their felt skull-caps were swathed with scarlet handker- 
chiefs, and across their shoulders and round the waist a 



36 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

leather strap was fastened, which served as a belt and carried 
everything, the treasured pipe being slipped into it at the 
back. A bag of yarn to do up sacking, a leather case of 
packing-needles, a curious steel instrument to protect the 
palm of the hand when using these latter, a bit of steel-chain 
with a thong for a whip, and little bags for money and 
tobacco all hung from this strap, while a packing-needle 
stuck behind the ear completed the costume. These men 
were most kind to their mules, in which they took great 
pride, and I never saw them chastise their charges with the 
long, thick staves they carried. They were, moreover, very 
abstemious, eating nothing but a bit of bread during the 
day, and if thirsty, lying flat down on their chests to drink 
at any stream they passed, seemingly quite indifferent as to 
the quality of the water. ' At night, however, they were all 
given a feed of rice and rogan, or lard, as part of their wages. 

My maid and Diana (the dog given me by Colonel Wells, 
at Tehran), travelled in the tachteravan, or litter, which we 
had bought at Tehran in case of illness, the conveyance used 
by Persian ladies of position ; while those of the lower rank 
must content themselves with the kajaveh, or panier, hung 
on the side of a mule. 

Our tacht was a kind of large, blue-painted box, long 
enough to lie down in, with a door on each side and round 
windows. It was furnished with scarlet, cloth-covered 
mattress and cushions, and had an outer chintz cover in case 
of heat, or more probably for greater elegance. At each end 
were two long shafts, to which were harnessed mules, that 
plodded steadily along, their burden swaying with each step, 
in a manner uncomfortably suggestive to me of being at sea, 
but which Marie, being a good sailor, quite enjoyed. 

On the third day we reached Aliabad, meeting the Jellal-i- 
Dowleh, son of the Zil-i-Sultan, on his way to Tehran to 
visit his grandfather, the Shah. My brother had a chat with 
him and found him pleasant, but was sorry to see such a 
young man so terribly stout. The mehman khana here 
was an imposing mud building with castellated towers built 
round a square, in which was a big tank of water with ducks 



TO FAT/MA'S SHRINE AT ROOM 37 

swimming on it, and streams running among the beds of 
oleanders and wallflowers. The stone-floored vaulted rooms 
were cold as cellars, however, and we were careful not to 
enter them without a wrap, after sitting in the hot sunshine, 
as we did not wish for a bout of fever. They were all 
painted blue, and the warped, ill-fitting doors were, as usual, 
fastened with a bit of chain, which hooked on to a staple on 
the lintel above. 

Everything in this way was very primitive, and of ventila- 
tion there was seldom any lack, for as glass was not then 
made in Persia, it was an expensive luxury, used by no means 
lavishly, and, when broken, seldom replaced. Frequently the 
windows were mere holes in the walls, often without even a 
rough wooden shutter to keep out the draught. 

Hashim had not yet grasped that we objected to see him 
touch everything with his fingers at meals, handing us pieces 
of bread with these useful members, taking up spoons and 
forks by their wrong ends, and so on. He was much hurt 
when we told him to use a spoon for helping us to lumps of 
sugar, and proudly displayed a pair of purple gloves, dirty 
and travel-stained, which he felt must completely alter the 
case! 

This reminds me of an old Persian servant who invariably 
insisted on putting the sugar into the teacups with his 
fingers, completely ignoring the tongs, which he always put 
ready by the basin. His master remonstrated with him, but 
to little purpose, as on the next occasion he laboriously 
picked up the sugar with his fingers, crooking them like 
pincers, and saying triumphantly, " You want me to use 
tongs for the sugar and so I do ! " 

We were thankful that the weather was now warm, com- 
paratively speaking, as the withered tufts of a little shrub 
was all the firewood we could procure, there being no vege- 
tation among the low, barren hills through which we had 
come. Just outside our " hotel " a striking-looking hill from 
which Tehran and Koom could be seen, rose abruptly, and 
from it we got a good view of the Salt Lake and the begin- 
ning of the kavtr, or Salt Desert, the lake with its salt- 



38 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

encrusted shore putting us in mind of pictures of the Dead 
Sea, with its bright blue waters, pink shores, and the desert 
all round it. Some twenty years ago there was no water 
here at all, but the road to Koom passed across what is now 
its bed, and a large caravanserai gave refuge to travellers. 
This did not suit the Sadr Azem, or Prime Minister, who was 
interested in the present route, so, by destroying the dam of 
a river, he flooded the caravanserai and a large portion of 
the plain, thus compelling all travellers to use the road he 
wished them to take. Out of evil, however, often comes 
good, and the lake is said to have much improved the 
climate of the district by inducing a greater rainfall. 

Next day we had to skirt it, and, having left the low hills 
from which the snow was rapidly disappearing, emerged on 
to a broad plain with grassy tussocks, passing near a nomad 
encampment. A low stone and mud wall, built in a semi- 
circle, surrounded four or five huts, covered with a sort of 
sacking made of black goat's-hair, and near at hand were 
stacks of pampas grass, with which the framework of these 
dwellings is formed. The women did not cover their faces, 
and wore short, blue cotton petticoats and jackets with 
mufflings round the head and neck, all having bare legs and 
feet. One old woman flaunted a marvellous mass of bright 
red hair, in striking contrast to the jet locks of all the others. 
Steadily riding on, we left the plain after awhile, and wound 
up among the hills to the top of a pass, from whence we 
could see Koom, nineteen miles off, with its beautiful back- 
ground of snowy peaks. Its golden mosque glittered in the 
sunlight, and some travelling Persians halting near us made 
profound genuflections towards the spot where Fatima lies 
buried, visited every Friday, so our servants assured us, by 
the holy saint, her father, the eighth Imam Reza, whose 
bones repose at Meshed. 

From here it was quite a short march to the sacred city, 
along a broad road with part of the Salt Desert stretching 
away on either side, and then low sandy hills, and always 
before us the curious double hill near which Koom lies. 

In this desert dwells the wild ass, the animal once chased 



TO FAT/MA'S SHRINE AT KOOM 39 

by the Sassanian monarch, Bahram, who lost his life in a 
quicksand while pursuing his favourite quarry, and is im- 
mortalised in the following lines from Omar Khayyam : — 

" And Bahram that great Hunter — the Wild Ass 
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.'' 

About two o'clock we climbed the last hill, which is strewn 
on either side with fantastic little piles of stones, set up by 
the faithful as a sort of shrine, and descended into the plain, 
Nasrullah Khan being surprised that we had passed no 
caravans of corpses on the road, as all the devout who can 
possibly manage it take their dead to be interred within the 
precincts of the sacred city. 

Our rooms at Koom opened on to a broad expanse of 
roof, where I sat most of the day and sketched the wonderful 
mosque. The small cupola, overlaid with plates of gilded 
copper, has two graceful, gold-tipped minarets, and the effect 
of the whole building, covered as it is with brilliantly coloured 
tiles, would be charming, were it not for the presence of two 
huge tiled minarets, which completely dwarf the original 
design. These were erected by the present Sadr Azem to 
the memory of his father, and it seems a pity that there 
was nothing to prevent the perpetration of such an eye- 
sore. Moreover, besides the mosque proper, there are 
countless ugly mud buildings clustered round it, and a vast 
expanse of graves, so that in reality Fatima's resting-place 
is most imposing from a distance, when only the glitter 
of dome and minarets catch the eye. A soft-toned clock 
chimed the hours a la Perse from a gateway, and at noon 
and sunset the melodious voices of the muezzins calling to 
prayer resounded throughout the whole city. 

Nasrullah Khan visited the mosque, which is a sort of 
Westminster Abbey, sharing with Meshed and Kerbelah the 
honour of being the last resting-place of the Shahs of Persia, 
and saw marvellous old carpets, embroideries and jewellery 
which I would have given a good deal to have been able to 
inspect. However, merely to attempt such a thing would 



40 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

have been almost certain death in one of the most fanatical 
cities of Persia, where the wife of the telegraph clerk was 
accustomed to go about clad as a Persian woman, that being 
the only way to secure her from insult. Mrs. Bishop, in her 
book on Persia, gives an amusing account of how she borrowed 
the aforesaid dress, and her adventures as she shuffled about 
the city in it. 

Our way out of Koom led through a mile of crowded 
bazaar, narrow, vaulted passages with booths on either side, 
and thronged with men and animals. A string of loaded 
camels blocked the road in one place, and separated me from 
my brother, whose old cavalry charger threaded his way in 
and out with wonderful agility ; and when we freed ourselves 
from these, my steed and I got mixed up in a crowd of little 
donkeys carrying panniers full of firewood. As donkeys in 
the East never make way for any one, we had to bide their 
pleasure, and my disgusted horse revenged himself by 
backing into the stalls containing dried fruits, vegetables, 
and odd drinks in curiously shaped bottles. However, we 
got free at last, and I was able to watch men working at bits 
of leather or stamping sheets of brass, though none seemed 
to have any press of business, our caravan coming as a 
welcome distraction to the hundreds of felt, skull-capped 
heads. 

Outside the bazaar we were obliged to wade through 
narrow lanes, fetlock deep in mire, with high mud walls 
rising on each side. These roads had originally been paved, 
but, as nothing in Persia is ever kept in repair, many of the 
stones were displaced, and the horses floundered about in the 
mud holes thus left. We were therefore glad to reach the 
shabby arch, which forms one of the entrances to the town, 
with four tumble-down shrines near at hand, on the blue- 
tiled, extinguisher roofs of which the storks had built their 
nests. 

Our first camp was at Langrun on a stony plain, and it 
was interesting to watch the long procession of mules being 
unloaded, and to see them roll, pack-saddles and all, directly 
the boxes were taken off. In fact, their desire to have a 



TO FATIMA S SHRINE AT KOOM 41 

dust-bath was so strong that the muleteers had to be very 
prompt in unloading them, as, if not, our portmanteaux and 
other belongings ran a considerable chance of being crushed. 
Our first thought always was to release the two pairs of 
turkeys bought at Koom ; and Rustem and Zohrab, with 
their mates Fatima and Fanny, became a great addition to 
our party. They would surround the afternoon tea-table, 
snatching bits of bread from our fingers, and Rustem was 
particularly good at high jumps after tempting morsels held 
up in the air, though frequently his sharp beak did not suffi- 
ciently discriminate between the food and our hands, and he 
would leap with astonishing agility to intercept a morsel on 
its way to our mouths. Fatima and Fanny did their duty in 
laying eggs during the whole journey to Kerman, which eggs 
were carefully kept, the result being a little family later on. 

We usually got into camp about 4 p.m. every afternoon, 
and so could have our baths before the sun went down, after 
which it became cold, and we needed our thickest wraps. 
The evenings, however, were most beautiful when the moon 
was at the full, flooding mountains and plain with a wonderful 
light, as it rode across the deep purple sky. 

The only part of camp-life that I did not appreciate was 
the getting up in the mornings. We were always dressed 
by seven o'clock, and at that hour a tent seemed an uncom- 
fortably airy apartment, especially when a keen wind was 
blowing — a frequent occurrence at that time of year. While 
the tents were being struck we would eat our breakfast at 
a table in the open, huddled up in capes, and finding the 
whole landscape exceedingly grey and chilly-looking, and 
then were obliged to wait about an hour, until the loading up 
of the mules was finished. We usually walked for another 
hour, leading our horses, until by nine o'clock the sun was 
well up in the heavens, and we could discard our wraps, 
mount, and proceed slowly, often across stony deserts with 
the scantiest sprinkling of thorny scrub, and our destination, 
some fifteen miles off, well in view. 

About noon we would make a halt for lunch, near water if 
possible, but often in the open desert, sitting on a carpet, to 



42 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

partake of pillau, or kabob-i-sikh. The former dish is usually 
a mound of chopped-up meat, rice, liquid butter, and peas, 
saffron, &c, while the latter is composed of pieces of meat 
with alternate layers of fat and onions stuck on skewers, and 
roasted over a charcoal fire, the skewers being constantly 
turned. 

There is a great art in preparing the rice, which should be 
washed in five or six different waters before cooking, and 
each grain, when boiled, should be distinct from the others 
and yet full of moisture. 

Puddings were a difficulty, as milk and eggs were seldom 
to be got ; but we had dried fruits of all sorts as a stand-by, 
apricots, figs, and dates, together with pistachios, almonds, and 
a bright yellow pea, these latter having been fried in salt. 

It used to amuse me to see Hashim lay the cloth on a 
windy day, as he would spread it carefully, and then go off to 
get a stone to prevent it being blown away. On his return it 
was usually flying across the desert, and he had a chase to 
capture it, then would unfold it again with the stone at one 
corner, and leave it to hunt for further stones. Probably it 
would be off once more on its travels before he got back ; 
but he never seemed to tire of the game of pursuing it. 
When it was finally secured in its place it was a trial to one's 
patience to see him lay plates and dishes upon it, altering 
their positions again and again to suit his fastidious taste. 
One evening he spent at least ten minutes in settling the 
places of four bottles, arranging them in a dozen different 
ways, and at last giving them perilous standing-room on the 
extreme edge of our somewhat rickety camp-table. 

He never could resist taking an unasked part in our con- 
versation, and whenever he did anything specially stupid, such 
as upsetting the coffee-pot, or overturning the contents of a 
dish on to the tablecloth, he always regarded such a mishap 
as a capital joke, and it was hard not to smile when he looked 
round for applause. 

Moreover, he always insisted on being given the title of 
khan (mister) by the other servants, and reminded them so 
frequently that he was superior to them from the fact of 



TO FATIMA'S SHRINE AT ROOM 43 

his father having been secretary to a nomad chieftain, that 
Nasrullah Khan was obliged to rebuke him with the time- 
honoured Persian snub for such cases, viz. : " A fool once 
said, ' My father was Vizier to the Sultan,' and I replied to 
him, ' What is that to you ? ' " 

While eating our lunch the procession of mules would pass 
us, slowly jogging along to the night's resting-place, and we 
usually waited two hours, so as to give them a good start, 
amusing ourselves by studying Persian, and practising with 
my small rook-rifle. 

There were plenty of skulls scattered about the plains to 
use as targets, and after awhile I became a fair shot at a 
hundred and fifty yards, though I could never vie with my 
brother in severing the bit of twine, by which sometimes our 
mark was suspended, or in hitting some minute twig on a 
tree. About two o'clock we would proceed on our way, and 
generally had a good canter into camp, as all the horses 
were exceedingly fit, and up to anything, despite the march- 
ing day after day of a distance, on an average, about fifteen 
miles. 

The second waiter, Shah Sowar, had tea ready for us, and 
while the tents were being pitched we often strolled off to 
look for game, and if we were in the region of kanat holes, 
I would fling stones into their depths, and my brother would 
hold his gun in readiness to fire at the pigeons as they flashed 
out of these roosting-places. 

We were thankful beyond words that it was not too cold 
to sleep in tents, for the caravanserais were most uninviting- 
looking places. They are put up as an act of charity by 
various Persian benefactors, and are open to all, man, horse, 
and mule alike. No one is expected to pay a penny for the 
accommodation thus provided, and I believe that Persians 
never do so, although Europeans usually give a couple of 
krans (ninepence) to the man in charge, who makes his 
livelihood by selling forage and occasionally firewood. He 
does not consider it incumbent upon him to keep the place 
clean, and, as it is no one's duty to repair it, it slowly falls 
into ruins, the mud walls crumbling away as the years pass by. 



CHAPTER IV 

AS FAR AS KASHAN 

IT appears to me that the East either powerfully attracts 
or as powerfully repels those who have left the West for 
the first time. Most real travellers, however, succumb to a 
charm which is somewhat difficult to describe, as it is the 
mixture of many things that makes up the undoubted fasci- 
nation of the whole. Probably there is a spice of the nomad 
in every one, and, if so, Persia is the very land to call it forth. 
There is a great sense of freedom in travelling day after day 
across vast plains, where often the only sign of life is the 
withered scrub, which at night will do duty for firewood, the 
traveller ever pressing forwards to some range of superbly 
coloured hills, which must be surmounted in the future. 

Day after day the sun's rays shine down from a deep-blue 
heaven, in which there is seldom a cloud, and pierce through 
an atmosphere so pure that every seam and fissure in peaks^ 
several miles off, may be clearly distinguished. The air 
blows free and untainted across the deserts, an air so fresh 
and exhilarating that it feels almost like champagne in the 
blood, warding off fatigue, and endowing the wayfarer with 
such vigour that he is enabled to enjoy everything thoroughly, 
taking the bad along with the good. The shackles of civili- 
sation are left behind. There are no trains or steamboats to 
be caught, no crowded hotels to put up at. The traveller 
leaves one guest-house after another without regret ; camp 
after camp is pitched and then struck, inducing a constant 
eagerness to press on and reach the next stage of the march. 
And yet there is no hurry about it all. The caravan halts at 

44 



AS FAR AS KASHAN 45 

the pleasure of its master, and stops as long as he chooses, the 
tent-life making the journey one delightful picnic. And 
the charm of the life is increased tenfold to those who love 
horses, and who travel, as we did, with their own animals. 
In the East the horse becomes a friend. It will often follow 
its master like a dog, will wander about camp unpicketed, 
strolling up to beg for a bit of bread or sugar, and is, in 
short, such a comrade that the traveller gets into the habit of 
spending all odds and ends of time in the congenial occupa- 
tion of " looking at the horses." Usually his last thought at 
night is to see if they are all comfortably wrapped up in their 
thick felts, and his step is the signal for a low neighing from 
his equine friends, those lying down not attempting to get up, 
so confident are they of his good intentions. 

Then again the great solitude of Persia strikes the imagi- 
nation. Days may pass without coming across a village or 
meeting an inhabitant. Man seems indeed a small thing, 
as the caravan slowly crawls over some vast plain always 
encircled by peaks, flushed with many a shade of madder or 
mauve, standing up, sharply silhouetted against the intense 
blue of the great cloudless vault above them. Such a 
contrast to the bustle and hurry of the West — a contrast 
between lands, in one of which time is money, and in the 
other of no account at all — forces the mind to view every- 
thing from a new standpoint. Civilisation appears to fall 
away here, and man is brought back to the simple facts of 
humanity, and has an uneasy sense that up to now his life 
has been sadly unreal and artificial. He feels that he has 
been vouchsafed a broader, truer glimpse of existence, and as 
he mingles with a people whose standpoint of morals and 
manners is an entirely different one to his, he learns not to 
judge at sight, and the precept of " live and let live " becomes 
deeply engraved on his soul. 

And through it all, with each fresh experience, the sense of 
a glad freedom is interwoven. The traveller knows that joy 
in living — a joy which our civilisation has done its best to 
improve away. Pessimism is unknown here, morbid thoughts 
cannot exist, and life is better, because so much happier. 



46 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Perhaps, however, I have not really hit upon what constitutes 
the glamour of the East. My love of it may be partly owing 
to the novelty of my experiences, partly to a longing for 
travel and adventure never satisfied hitherto, and, it is pos- 
sible, chiefly to the fact that I had never been so well in all 
my life before. 

I awoke morning after morning feeling at my very best 
both mentally and physically, almost inclined to do homage 
to the lavish floods of golden sunshine, and with, I believe, 
the uncommon experience of being perfectly happy and 
knowing it all the time. 

Between Koom and Kashan there was very little traffic, as 
we made our way across great plains, several narrow paths 
running parallel to one another forming our road. The only 
sign of vegetation on the stony wastes was a withered thorny 
plant, the inadequate firewood of these districts ; but, not- 
withstanding the apparent lack of food, the crested larks 
chirped briskly, rising up in front of our horses' feet, too 
tame to flit off far, and several species of lizards fled with 
lightning speed. Usually these were the small, long-tailed 
kind ; but fat, unwieldy monsters with orange stomachs were 
often seen near water, and I once picked up a small saurian, 
looking somewhat like a miniature chameleon, which uttered 
a curious cry, and did its best to bite my fingers with its 
toothless mouth. The Persians have a dread of all these 
creatures, imagining that they are poisonous. We seldom 
came across snakes. Nasrullah Khan killed a couple one 
afternoon sunning themselves on the side of a kanat hole — 
long, greenish creatures with black markings and white 
speckled stomachs. The syce insisted on carrying them 
back to camp to show the Sahib who was shooting in the 
hills near, and it was amusing to see his terror when they 
slipped at intervals off the stick over which he hung them, as 
he could not bring himself to believe that they were really 
dead. Occasionally my brother killed others with the lash 
of his whip, cutting at them from horseback as they wriggled 
along across the road, but, as far as we could judge, there 
seemed to be very few in this part of Persia. 



AS FAR AS KASHAN 47 

Crows, and an occasional vulture or hawk, completed the 
life to be found in this district, unless one looked carefully 
enough to perceive the slowly moving woodlice, half their 
bodies black and the other half rust-colour, so perfectly har- 
monising with the soil that, unless in motion, they could 
hardly be distinguished. Their holes, however, were easier 
to see than themselves, as all round the entrances lay a 
quantity of minute particles of gravel, quite different in 
appearance to the soil above. Then there were the tiny 
greenish-grey grasshoppers, most active inhabitants of the 
deserts. Speaking of these reminds me how one day, sitting 
on a barren hillside, I idly picked up what I thought was a 
fragment of withered thorn, bleached a yellowish-white by 
the sun. To my surprise it moved in my hand, and turned 
into a sort of mantis, which imitated the plants on which it 
fed so exactly that it seemed to be all limbs without a body, 
and its movements were exactly the aimless, slow driftings of 
a scrap of thorn blown hither and thither by the lightest 
of breezes. 

Patches of salt lay on the plains, and little columns of dust 
whirled over them as the wind blew from the pink and brown 
ranges on either side of us, while the great silence was hardly 
broken by an occasional Persian passing with his mules or 
donkeys or a string of camels moving majestically along ; 
although when we met a caravan of mules there was noise 
and shouting in plenty, the animals going here and there 
across the track at their pleasure, necessitating some care to 
avoid an unpleasant collision with their loads. 

On the fourth day after leaving Koom we reached Kashan, 
near which were many villages and much cultivation. It was 
an oppressively hot morning, and a burning wind blew the 
dust up in great clouds, obscuring the outlines of the moun- 
tains, and making us thankful for the halt for lunch at a 
abambar, or tank, half-way. This was a mud-domed building 
with a long covered flight of stone steps leading down to the 
water beneath, which dripped pleasantly from a huge brass 
tap, the latter object being a most unusual sight in this 
country. These tanks are built all over Persia as acts of 



48 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

charity, and I can hardly imagine a more acceptable bene- 
faction in a land where water is so scantily distributed, 
and where one can so fully understand the force of the 
Prophet's expression the "shadow of a great rock in a 
weary land." 

Kashan itself seemed even more in want of repair than 
Koom, and its ugly, bare mud buildings stood in a confused 
mass on the plain, the telegraph office outside the town and 
one lofty minaret being the only structures that caught the 
eye among the hundreds of low-domed, squalid-looking 
houses. We took up our quarters at the former, being hos- 
pitably received by the official in charge, and spent three days 
in the unprepossessing ruined city. As far as Kashan we 
could see Demavend, which rose up in greater grandeur daily, 
the rest of the snowy Elburz range dwindling away, so that 
we could appreciate the true proportions of the majestic 
volcano. When we finally lost sight of its beautiful outline, 
we felt as if some familiar friend had left us for good. Out- 
last glimpse of it was at Kurrom Dasht, some twelve miles 
beyond Kashan. We climbed to the top of the highest hill 
in a barren range we were crossing, and, while my brother 
"plane-tabled," I gazed at the white cone, showing faintly 
against the vivid blue of the sky, at a distance of some two 
hundred miles, its attendant peaks having quite disappeared. 

Kashan was once famous for its brass-work and silk, and 
the Persian name for a tile, kashi, is derived from this town, 
which supplies these beautiful decorations for mosques and 
palaces. 

It has an unenviable reputation for scorpions, which has 
passed into the saying, " May you be stung by a Kashan 
scorpion," when a Persian wishes to call down a specially 
unpleasant curse on his enemy's head, and its inhabitants 
share with Koom the following agreeable proverb : " A dog 
of Kashan is better than a nobleman of Koom, yet a dog 
is superior to an inhabitant of Kashan " ; and even among 
Persians they are notorious cowards. 

However, here was the centre of the Persian silk trade, 
and we spent several enjoyable hours in selecting purchases 



AS FAR AS KASHAN 49 

from the big bundles of textile treasures of all kinds that the 
dellals brought for our inspection. 

There were silk cloths and sashes striped with all the 
colours of the rainbow, lovely scraps of old embroidery, 
softly shaded velvets, and white veils worked with gold 
thread. These latter were once used by the ladies to drape 
round their heads, but now, being considered old-fashioned, 
they make original coverings for European tea-tables. Many 
of the modern productions were staring combinations of 
emerald-green and magenta, or vivid purple and yellow ; 
and the velvet curtains, of which I had heard so much, 
were crude to a degree, the aniline dyes looking doubly 
garish when displayed next the exquisite colouring of the 
old materials. 

The dellals came daily, bringing fresh things for us to see, 
and lowering the prices they demanded for the pile of goods 
we had picked out and set apart, until both sides arrived at 
a mutual understanding. They would squat on the floor, a 
party of six or seven, each man with his private bundle 
beside him, the rdle of salesman being entrusted to one of 
their number, who was gifted with a remarkably glib tongue, 
and was moreover an excellent hand at a bargain. 

Besides silks, we bought quaint, incised metal boxes and 
old brass bowls, one of these latter being once the stock-in- 
trade of a native doctor. The signs of the zodiac are inscribed 
all round the outside of such bowls, and inside are engraved 
descriptions of the different diseases that afflict man, com- 
bined with prayers to Allah. The doctor possesses a small 
key for each prayer, and his mode of curing a patient is thus : 
he fills the basin with water, drops the key against the prayer 
suitable for the complaint with which he is dealing, and, if the 
invalid swallows the water in a believing spirit, his recovery 
from illness will be effected. Women, wishing to gain the 
love of their husbands, use these bowls, repeating an invoca- 
tion to the Prophet as they pour the water over their heads. 

We had left the cold weather behind us since Koom, and 
the delicate green of the young crops was springing up all 
over the plain, which was intersected everywhere with 

5 



5o THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

channels of water. As so little rain falls in Persia, the 
irrigation is artificial, and is performed by letting water 
over the fields for so many hours at a time. The ground 
being of different levels, low banks of earth cut up the 
whole country under cultivation into irregularly shaped 
small pieces, and act as dams to prevent any of the pre- 
cious liquid from escaping, and to allow of one portion 
being flooded while its next-door neighbour remains dry. 

Throughout Persia the water supply is provided by means 
of kanats. These are underground aqueducts made to 
conduct the water from the hills to the towns and villages. 
The soil, thrown up in digging these channels, form mounds 
at the mouths of the deep shafts, which penetrate to the 
water at intervals of some twenty yards, looking, as Mr. 
Curzon remarks, like chains of " portentous molehills " thrown 
up across all the cultivated plains. The kanat makers are a 
special craft, and are supposed to guard the secrets of their 
trade very jealously. 

Several of the holes have an entrance dug down to the 
water, and here the women wash themselves and their clothes 
all day long, usually polluting the stream just before it flows 
into the town ; but Persians think little of this, as they have 
a proverb which informs them that nothing can be amiss with 
running water. Moreover, each house has a tank, which is 
filled from the stream after dark, when the washing has 
ceased, though this method is by no means an ideal one, as 
the tanks are so seldom cleaned out. 

The kanat holes are somewhat dangerous to riders galloping 
across country, as many of them are flush with the ground, and 
therefore impossible to see until close upon them. What is 
perhaps worse is that if a stream dries up, or if its course be 
diverted, the shafts are left to fall in, and the earth between 
them breaks away under the feet of a horse crossing it. Once 
I was riding among a number of disused kanats, and the 
ground between them had become so rotten that, in going 
up an apparently substantial bank, the whole of it gave way, 
and I and my horse came rolling down together. 

One afternoon we all rode to the garden made by Fath AH 



AS FAR AS KASHAN 51 

Shah, in the little village of Fin, about four miles to the 
west of Kashan. We took a long time in getting out of 
the cobble-paved city lanes between their high mud walls,, 
and scarcely were we free of them when the stony paths 
of the rambling village began, winding in and out inter- 
minably, until we reached the imposing entrance of our 
destination, a gateway on which Persian soldiers were 
depicted in stucco-work. The garden was laid out in avenues 
of big cypresses, these, and poplars, being the favourite trees 
of Persia ; and at their feet channels of warm water ran over 
blue and green tiles. The large tanks which fed these ducts 
swarmed with small fish, and here and there were fine arch- 
ways frescoed with the exploits of Fath Ali Shah. There 
were also portraits of his many sons, who looked like young 
ladies, with smooth faces, "wasp" waists, long garments 
reaching to their feet, and pretty little crowns on their 
abundant hair. 

We were shown the tiled bath-room, now in ruins, where 
Mirza Taki Khan, the great Persian Minister, was put to 
death by order of the present Shah. He was anxious to 
civilise and reform Persia, but became suspected of conspiracy 
against the throne, and fell a victim to intrigue. 

It is said that his wife, a daughter of the Shah, was passion- 
ately attached to him, and, knowing the designs against his 
life, watched over him night and day. However, all human 
endurance must have its limits, and on the day her vigilance 
was relaxed the emissaries seized their opportunity and 
despatched their victim. 

During our stay at Kashan we increased our poultry by 
the addition of a cock and three hens, of a breed only to be 
found in that town, and said to have been originally brought 
from Burmah. They had large tufts on their heads, and such 
short legs that they looked as if sitting when really standing, 
the hens were jet-black, and the cock a speckled brown. 

As we were leaving Kashan Nasrullah Khan told me of 
one of the superstitions of the country, to wit, that if any one 
setting off on a journey hears a sneeze it is a warning to him 
to postpone the start to another day, as, even if he repeats a 



52 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

certain invocation to Allah, harm is sure to follow. Oddly 
enough, a beggar chanced to sneeze as our mirza prepared 
to mount his steed, and I was amused at the ill-concealed 
expression of anxiety which clouded his face, and, as he 
always attributed a serious fall from horseback some years 
ago to the effects of a sneeze which he had boldly disre- 
garded, I could partly sympathise with his feelings! 

On the other hand, Persians believe that if they much want 
anything, and are wishing for it at the moment when any one 
sneezes, they are certain to obtain their heart's desire. 

A gentleman told me that as a boy he had a great longing 
to visit England, and one day while thinking on the delights 
of Feringhistan he heard a sneeze, and was firmly convinced 
that destiny would send him thither. Although he had to wait 
some six or eight years before his wish was fulfilled, yet his 
faith in that sneeze of good omen never wavered. 

The same acquaintance had also another curious supersti- 
tion, which was, that a day would be lucky or unlucky, accord- 
ing to whose face he saw as he awoke. He was in the habit of 
gazing at his favourite servant Haji the first thing in the 
morning, so as to ensure a fortunate day for himself; but occa- 
sionally, by some evil chance, he would happen to see another 
visage, and in that case things had invariably gone wrong with 
him. 

He classified all our servants into " good " or " bad " faces, 
but admitted that only experience could decide to which 
category an untried face belonged ! 

It was also imperative to look at some one immediately 
after seeing the new moon, and he amused me by remarking 
that as Haji was not near him on one such occasion, he had 
gazed at my brother instead ! 

Before we left Tehran Dr. Odling gave me the excellent 
piece of advice to secure the horse that walked the best for 
my mount, as a good walker would be indispensable to my 
comfort on the march ; and day after day I proved the 
wisdom of this counsel. 

At first I preferred to ride my Arab " Nawab," with his per- 
fect manners and beautiful mouth ; but, being a young horse, 



AS FAR AS KASHAN 53 

he soon got tired, and my great stand-by was " Charters," a 
sturdy little grey. His faults were a hard mouth and a 
tendency to put his head down and bolt off with me at 
every opportunity; but his springy, tireless walk would have 
made ample amends for much greater failings. During the 
longest march he was always keen and on the alert, ever 
ready for a canter; and in going up hills and steep places he 
was unsurpassed. He would pause to consider the obstacle 
before him, brace every muscle, and then rush to the attack. 
When I add that he was remarkably sure-footed, a capital 
jumper, and that his pluck never failed him, the reader will 
understand that I had almost an ideal horse for my needs. 

Our stud was certainly a quarrelsome one, and every now and 
then one or another would break loose, and a battle royal 
ensued, which, however, the grooms generally managed to stop 
before any real harm was done. With us they were invariably 
on the best of terms, and much appreciated being fed with 
scraps of bread and melon-rinds from our al fresco lunches. 

The Indian syce was devoted to the whole seven, but 
"Cotmore," my brother's water (Australian charger), was his 
special pride, and he would let the old horse take lumps of 
sugar from between his lips. "Cotmore" always gave a 
peculiar confidential whinny when he saw his friend ap- 
proaching, and after awhile some of the other horses copied 
it, with more or less success, when they perceived that it 
resulted in food. There was the utmost confidence between 
the grooms and their charges, although the former would 
not have hesitated for a moment to rob the animals they 
petted so constantly of their forage, could they have done so 
unperceived. 



CHAPTER V 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 



WE were not at all sorry to leave the mud walls and 
dilapidated houses of ruinous Kashan behind us, and 
emerge into the open country again. 

As my brother had travelled to Yezd on a previous journey 
by the ordinary caravan route, he was anxious to reach that 
city by another road, and accordingly we followed a new track 
further east, which ensured us tolerable water, and gave my 
brother a chance of ibex and moufflon shooting, besides the 
opportunity of mapping in a hitherto little known part of 
the country. 

At first our way led through a most sterile district, and our 
surprise was great when, late in the afternoon of the second 
day, we cantered to the brow of a hill and looked straight down 
upon a tiny village spread at our feet at the bottom of a deep 
and narrow valley the whole place a mass of verdure and 
springing crops. 

There were fields green with barley ; mud dwellings ; the 
blue-tiled dome of a mosque; and many trees beside a torrent 
which dashed through the secluded spot. Everything was in 
miniature, and as pretty a sight as I ever saw in Persia, our 
white tents and cavalcade of mules adding considerably to the 
picture. Enormous masses of conglomerate rose up in fantastic 
shapes, towering far above the toy-houses, and on the summit 
of one of them was perched a castellated caravanserai, looking 
for all the world like an old baronial residence. The whole 
place reminded me somehow of Grimm's Fairy Tales, the little 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 55 

hamlet hidden away so securely from the outer world by these 
weird rocks, which in old romance would certainly have been 
giants bewitched, or fair princesses turned by enchantment 
into stone, and I cannot tell what besides. 

The feeling of adventure was increased by rinding that the 
descent to the doll's village below was seemingly over a sheer 
precipice. We were accordingly forced to dismount, and lead 
our horses to the camp down a steep and almost invisible 
track, along which they stumbled and slid in perilous fashion 
in the dim twilight. 

Our way next morning, towards the large and populous 
village of Natunz, led us along narrow paths, stony with 
the debris of the high mountain ranges among which we 
were passing, and the sky was dark and fierce gusts of wind 
blew from the mountains as we rode through the lanes of the 
village planted with trees beside running water. Business 
seemed to be at a standstill in the long vaulted alley of the 
bazaar, and the fine old mosque with its minarets was almost 
entirely denuded of the tiles that once covered it, some of the 
beautiful reflet metallique of its interior being now in South 
Kensington Museum. The inhabitants came out in crowds to 
our stony camping ground, making picturesque groups in their 
blue, purple, or pale green cotton blouses and trousers, and 
brown sheepskin pushteens, and we noticed that the country 
women seldom veiled their faces, and were for the most part 
sturdy creatures, though prematurely aged. The long cotton 
shawl which they wore over their heads changed in pattern 
and colour with the district, being here a check material, 
while further on navy blue was the fashion, and at Kerman 
white was de rigueur. We found the villagers invariably 
most polite, looking upon us and our camp as a sort of 
theatrical representation. They never tired of gazing at 
the " elephant-birds," as they called our turkeyS, and were 
always greatly excited at witnessing the descent of Marie 
from the tacht, judging that she must be a princess at least, 
to be carried in such a conveyance. The servants would 
employ them freely in putting up the tents and in fetching 
water, evidently considering that the novel sight of three 



56 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Europeans and their belongings was an ample reward for 
their labours. 

Natunz is celebrated for its gardens, in which grow huge 
pears, and is often a summer residence of Persian royalty who 
shoot in the mountains, which are close to the town, on the 
summit of one peak being an old hunting-lodge, built by Shah 
Abbas some three hundred years ago. 

From Natunz we moved our camp to Pabokh, and then on 
to Murg, one of the villagers speeding us on our journey by 
opening a small pocket mirror, although he omitted the 
orthodox accompaniments of a flower and some leaves 
(orange for choice) in a glass of water. We were pestered 
for alms by two well-fed and well-dressed dervishes, clothed 
in white woollen garments, like nightgowns, with bare heads 
and flowing hair. They were young and strong, and carried 
handsomely inlaid battle-axes over their shoulders, and 
curiously shaped bronze boxes in their hands, in which to 
collect alms. These men live entirely by the proceeds of 
begging, and it has been hinted that they often attack 
and rob people in lonely places unless their demands are 
complied with. 

The hills in this district were of the most vivid shades 
of crimson, amber, and pink, giving the name to a lovely 
shimmering silk made at Meshed and Kashan, and were 
castellated in appearance, and at times shot up abruptly in 
quaint shapes from the stony plains over which we passed, 
one sandstone mass strikingly resembling an English cottage, 
thatched roof, chimneys and all. Between Robat and Vartun 
we came to a break in the gorgeous-hued ranges, and in the 
distance saw the once royal city of Isfahan, with the hill near 
Julfa towering over the town. With our field-glasses we 
could clearly distinguish the great mosque built by Shah 
Abbas, who was a contemporary of our own Elizabeth, 
and Nasrullah Khan pointed out various objects of interest 
to us. 

From Natunz onwards the water was slightly brackish, but 
at Vartun the taste was especially disagreeable, quite spoiling 
our tea, even though we squeezed an extra amount of lemon 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 57 

juice into it to correct the taste. However, curiously enough, 
the horses and mules preferred it to a more flavourless liquid. 

It seems strange that a large village should be solely 
dependent on such water, yet the women came in crowds 
to draw it at sunset, draped in dark blue and white chaddars> 
and carrying tall classic jars, narrow at the neck, and running 
to a sharp point at the base. These were most inconvenient 
kuzehs, despite their graceful appearance, for they toppled 
over unless tilted up against something. As the women 
gossiped by the salt stream, great flocks of goats and sheep 
came to have their evening drink, their patter-patter sounding 
like a heavy shower of rain. They stood in long lines, and 
when satisfied, politely gave place to the eager rows behind 
them, all quite orderly and well-behaved. Then they made 
their way to the village, followed by the women carrying their 
pitchers on the nape of the neck, keeping them steady with 
one hand, or, if they bore two, getting a friend to hoist one on 
each shoulder. 

The usual stony waste had to be traversed before we 
reached the town of Kuhpah, which is almost in the middle 
of a plain, though its name means " at the foot of the 
mountain." It was quite a large place with a fair bazaar, 
and through it passed the rickety poles of the Persian tele- 
graph line, which joined Isfahan to Yezd. 

Our camp lay near the cemetery, which was, as usual, 
unenclosed, and the last resting-places of the deceased 
only to be recognised by bits of brick or stone stuck into 
the ground. Sometimes there are elaborately carved white 
slabs in the graveyards, but everything is, as a rule, falling 
into decay, even to the domed erections put up to the memory 
of the rich dead. As the Persians take gravestones without 
ceremony to bridge over bad places, to mend their mud walls 
and so on, it is a wonder that any one cares to go to the 
expense of putting up a monument, knowing what, in all 
probability, its ultimate destination will be. 

There were many small fish in the brackish kanat near 
which we halted, so the drag-net was produced, two servants 
held it at a suitable place, and we thrashed the water for some 



58 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

distance up stream to force the " finny fry " into it. The 
excitement among our men was great when the net was 
hauled in full of struggling captives, which we ate later 
on for dinner, finding them somewhat tasteless and exceed- 
ingly bony, but a welcome change from mutton and fowl. 

Not far from us half a dozen men were playing a game 
called toup^ something like " tip and run " with the run left 
out. A man hit a ball with a stick high into the air, and if 
it were caught by one of those standing at a short distance 
from him, he was out, and the catcher took his place. 

It was a holiday for every one, as the great Mushtehed at 
Kerbelah, the Archbishop of the Shiahs was dead, and 
the bazaar was closed for some days. Nasrullah Khan told 
us how he had begun life as a simple moonship or clerk, 
at Shiraz, but gave up his position there to study law and 
philosophy at the feet of the then Mushtehed at Kerbelah, 
and in course of time succeeded to his master's office, being 
accounted by all as the most talented of his pupils. If a man 
is a seyid, or descendant of the Prophet, it is a great help 
towards becoming a mollah (or priest) ; but unless the candi- 
date be able to master all the intricacies of Arabic law, and 
to parry or answer all the hard questions which the established 
mollahs will put to him, he will never rise high in his profession. 

The whole of the next day we had a gale, and violent dust- 
storms, life in camp being anything but pleasant under such 
circumstances. The sand drifted into the tents, covering our 
clothes and faces, getting into our hair and eyes, and invading 
our food in appreciable quantities, while the ferashes (tent- 
pitchers) were employed every ten minutes in hammering 
down the tent pegs as the gusts of wind pulled them out, 
and in arranging boxes and packing-cases on the felt edging 
of the tents to prevent these latter from being blown away 
bodily. The whole landscape was hidden by a murky, yellow 
cloud of sand, and it was a relief when heavy floods of rain 
came down and somewhat abated the hurricane. 

Although it was a cold and dreary morning when we left 
Kuhpah, yet we could see that spring had come even to these 
desolate regions. Clumps of mauve crocuses were blossoming 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 59 

among the thorns, many of which were bursting into bud 
and leaf; a most unpromising-looking shrub was now a 
mass of pink flowers resembling " London pride " ; while 
a species of mimosa was covered with tender green leaves, 
though still retaining the dried-up blossoms of last year. As 
my brother quoted to me from the " Gulistan " of Sadi : " Not 
only the nightingale in the rose-bushes sings his hymn of 
praise, but every thorn is itself a voice of adoration to the 
Deity." 

We crossed the stony plain, and after winding among low 
hills, halted for the night at the village of Guchkun, a curious 
place, perhaps never before visited by Europeans. The mud 
domes of the old village were built on the crest of a high hill, 
so as to secure the inhabitants from the raiding parties so 
frequent half a century ago. However, during the peaceful 
reign of the present Shah (now the late one), most of the 
villagers have descended from their eyrie and constructed 
new dwellings at the foot of the hill, many of the old houses 
being in ruins. It was one of the most picturesque spots 
imaginable, the rocky spur rising up boldly, distinct from 
all the neighbouring hills, although so well hidden by 
them, that the traveller comes almost by chance on the 
village. 

The ruined domes and arches seemed a part of the rock 
itself, so closely did they resemble it in colour, and from a 
short distance it was hard to believe that the fantastic 
outline of the hill before us was due to art and not to 
nature. It was a mystery how the people made their way 
in safety along the narrowest of paths into their special 
rabbit-warrens, the entrances to which in many cases were 
hewn out from the side of the precipice ; and we were con- 
vinced that there must have been a great mortality among 
the children when the old village was inhabited. 

The great fast of Ramazan had begun, coinciding this year 
with our Lent, Ash Wednesday being next day, and the 
villagers had worked as usual, eating nothing from sunrise 
to sunset. It is a religious observance which presses cruelly 
on the poor, as they are forced to toil on empty stomachs, 



60 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

while the rich sleep and visit the mosques during the day 
and at night feast with parties of their friends. 

Our servants came in a body to ask whether they ought 
to fast or no ; but Nasrullah Khan absolved them from this 
duty as they were travelling ; and, as a matter of fact, many 
Persians take a journey at this time, so as to escape it. The 
Europeans at Tehran told me that they all suffered indirectly 
from Ramazan, their domestics being too languid to perform 
more than the most perfunctory service, in the intervals of 
which they lay down and dozed. Persian boys begin to 
fast at the age of fifteen, when they are legally men, and 
the girls are considered to reach womanhood when only 
twelve years old. 

The old and pious frequently extend their fast to three 
months' duration, and it is considered an act of peculiar 
sanctity to commence it two or three days earlier, thus 
" meeting Mahomet " as they say. 

Next day we lunched at a tiny hamlet nestling below the 
ruins of an old fortress on a hill, and found that all the 
villagers were fasting, and looking very hungry as they 
grouped themselves near to observe us. We gave them a 
dish of rice, and could see how they longed to pounce upon 
it ; but an aged man, evidently one "in authority among them, 
packed it away inside his coat, explaining that no food must 
pass their lips until after sundown. So we had to content 
ourselves with feeding the children who were exempted for 
the present from a rule which must be terrible in the heat, as 
thirst as well as hunger must then be endured, and is certainly 
hard enough in cold weather. It is a wonderful example 
of the compelling power of Islam that these poor folk without 
mosque or mollah of any kind, should so strictly follow the 
observances of their religion year after year. They showed 
us their small crops of young barley, saying that they were all 
they had to depend on in the way of food, and that probably 
the locusts would devour them about Noruz, the Persian 
New Year's Day, falling on March 21st. The peasant class 
in Persia lay in barley for the whole year, taking it to be 
ground as they require. 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 61 

I was informed that the rate of wages at Kerman for an 
under-gardener was a kran (4jd.) monthly in cash, and in 
kind about 200 lbs. each, yearly, of corn, barley, and millet — 
a very insufficient provision one would think for a man and 
his family. 

We found the nights among these hills bitterly cold, and 
the horses, picketed out, and wrapped up in their great felts, 
used to sneeze and cough at intervals. Breakfast eaten in 
the open, with the thermometer at 30 was not a particularly 
cheerful meal, as an icy wind was usually blowing at that 
time of day ; but we always walked some two or three miles 
to get warm before mounting. Sometimes on the road we 
would inquire of a peasant how far it was to our night's 
halting-place, but we discovered that he invariably halved 
the distance, following the Persian custom of encouraging 
the traveller by a series of kindly fictions. The idea is that 
it is an act of true charity to persuade him that his journey 
is nearly at an end ; to tell him that he is close to the 
caravanserai, has only to ride round the hill before him and 
he will be upon it, and so on, whereas in reality he may be 
six or eight miles off. 

We halted at Uskh and then Mazra, and at this latter 
place toiled up the Kuh-i-Chiras, a mountain 7,400 feet high, 
at the end of a short range. At the summit we had a view 
of many miles in all directions. The Zender Rud, the 
famous river of Isfahan, ending abruptly in a broad lake on 
the plain below, and the snowy ranges of Shiraz and Yezd 
rising dazzlingly white against the intense blue of a Persian 
sky, while nearer lay low hills seemingly scattered at hap- 
hazard about the plain and looking very insignificant from 
our elevated perch. 

In descending, the peasant who carried the mapping 
apparatus, let several loose stones drop near my brother 
and Sultan Sukru, who were in front. The latter, imperturb- 
able as ever, merely called out to the man that however 
many hens he might have up above, neither he nor the Sahib 
wished for any more of their eggs ! 

On our way to Serv we crossed a plain where herds of 



62 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

camels from Isfahan were feeding on the spring scrub. The 
young ones were queer, woolly creatures, with enormously 
long legs ; and some of them followed us, so terrifying the 
horses with their uncanny appearance that when we halted 
for lunch and the friendly little monsters gambolled around 
us, there was a general tearing up of picket-ropes, and only 
prompt measures averted a regular stampede. As this part 
of the country is often visited by parties of raiding Baktiari, 
we rode well armed, and were amused at finding that the 
men in charge of the camels took us for these bandits, being 
greatly alarmed and snatching up their guns, when some of 
us galloped towards them to inquire the way. I should not 
have imagined, as evidently they did, that Terai hats and 
European costumes were affected by Baktiaris ! 

Nodoshan, our next halt, three marches away from Yezd, 
was quite an important place, backed by a fine mountain 
range, on one of the spurs of which stood an old mud fort. 
We rode through an imposing brick gateway into the town, 
which is surrounded by castellated mud walls, and was 
apparently quite empty. However we found a man who 
piloted us back across a dry river-bed to a broad plateau of 
rock opposite the town, which is built on a like plateau, and 
here we found our camp pitched. Here also the entire 
population of Nodoshan was assembled to see the spectacle, 
and over the fields, women, like ghouls in their long white 
coverings, were flitting towards us. Our tents were on a 
shingly platform of conglomerate, backed by a semicircle of 
rocks of the same formation, and it was owing to this shelter 
that we were not blown bodily away by the hurricane that 
raged during that night. 

For the last ten days high winds had invariably com- 
menced after sunset ; but here the climax was reached, and 
it says much for our tents and their stout pegs, that we were 
not suffocated as we lay, trying in vain to get a little sleep. 
The poor servants scarcely rested at all, and spent their time 
in piling barricades of boxes round the tents, and in hammer- 
ing in the pegs as they were torn up. The hours went by 
very slowly, the jackals howling round us in small packs, 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 63 

their yells at a little distance sounding exactly as if children 
were crying ; then the owls gave their melancholy hooting, 
and the musical entertainment was varied by the hideous 
shrieking of the hyaena, half a scream, and half a blood- 
curdling laugh. 

Persians much appreciate these spring gales, as they say 
that they " awaken the leaves " ; but Nodoshan did not 
appear to require much rousing, as its masses of fruit trees, 
which supply the Yezd markets, were all in full blossom. 
Here I saw the lofty badgir, or wind-towers, such a character- 
istic feature of Yezd. They somewhat resemble Italian 
campaniles, and are built of brick with a shaft which con- 
tinually sends a current of cold air down to an underground 
chamber where the owners sit during the hot weather. 

From here we had a long march of twenty-five miles to 
Nasirabad in bitterly cold and windy weather, and though 
we passed a magnificent amphitheatre of mountains and 
were privileged to see a wonderful sunset glow upon their 
snowy peaks, yet after nine hours in the saddle, and no 
dinner till half-past ten o'clock, I was too tired to enjoy 
anything, and my one idea was to go to bed. However, it 
is marvellous what a restorative a good night is, and we were 
off by eight o'clock on the morrow, quite forgetful of our 
late fatigue. 

Taft was our last day among the hills, and we rode 
through a grand pass to reach it. On the one side the 
limestone mountains were exactly like the bastions of a great 
fortification extending for miles, and the nearer we got to 
this enormous scarped mass, the more closely it resembled 
fortified outworks, shutting in the valley entirely, save at 
one end, where an abrupt fissure revealed Yezd, enveloped 
in a soft mauve haze. The pretty village of Taft, the 
summer resort of the Yezdis, was a mass of gardens, and we 
wound in and out among its narrow lanes beside running 
streams and fine trees, until we reached our camp, which was 
pitched in what Persians call a garden, anglice, an orchard 
with a crop of lucerne covering the ground. 

The next morning as we left the village, riding along the 



64 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

stony bed of a dry watercourse which acts as the highway 
to Yezd, a stalwart dervish, in long brown cloak and white 
turban, stopped us and sang an ode in our honour, trolling 
out the words in a fine, rich voice, the best I ever heard in 
Persia. Here, for the first time, I saw that persecuted people, 
the Parsees, who still keep their ancient faith, and are a 
handsome and manly-looking race. They are chiefly to be 
found at Yezd and Kerman, intermarry among themselves, 
wear a distinctive dress, and their good-looking women do 
not cover their faces. 

Yezd looked an extremely dreary city as we approached 
it on March 6th, having accomplished two-thirds of our long 
journey to Kerman. 

It is set in a desert and surrounded by high mud walls 
which are obviously needed to resist the encroachments of the 
sand piled up in heaps against them — the desert being a far 
more insidious enemy to the town than those against whom 
the defences were erected in the first instance, and making 
the old prophecy that Yezd will one day be destroyed by 
sand seem not at all improbable. Not a tree nor a scrap 
of greenery was to be seen, crops having but a precarious 
existence in such a light soil, and all the gardens being 
hidden from view by high walls. A great expanse of squalid 
mud dwellings met the eye, relieved here and there by lofty 
minarets and a liberal sprinkling of the badgirs, which are 
striking objects, and are much needed in a place where the 
heat in summer is little short of suffocation for Europeans. 

As we reached the environs of the city the road became 
worse, with yawning holes at frequent intervals not pleasant 
for riders after dark, and we got enveloped in a maze of 
winding tracks, here and there coming across caravans of 
groaning, grunting camels, sometimes laden with pome- 
granates which left a rosy trail behind them. Occasionally 
we had to wait as the great creatures blocked up some cross- 
road, lying down and declining to budge until the vigorous 
remonstrances of their owners cleared us a passage, our 
horses at first being considerably alarmed at these en- 
counters. 



p 

IB ■?>«•■ j •' 







A DERVISH. 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 65 

So, by degrees, we made our way towards the house of the 
Fergusons (Mr. "Ferguson being British Vice-Consul, and 
manager of the Imperial Bank of Persia at Yezd), who, 
with true hospitality, had insisted on putting us all up, 
though we were ashamed to quarter ourselves upon them, 
being such a large party. They met us with the warmest 
of welcomes ; and it was a treat after our hot and dusty 
ride to drink afternoon-tea in a beautiful room, the whole 
of one side of which was a series of big stained-glass win- 
dows, and which looked out upon their garden, cool with 
plenty of trees and big tanks of water in which goldfish were 
swimming about. 

The week we spent at Yezd was a delightful change from 
tent life. To live in comfortable rooms where a huge budget 
of letters and papers awaited us, to play tennis with the 
European contingent, and take long rides over the rolling 
sands outside the city, more than made up for the hot, 
airless nights which prevented us from sleeping at first, 
especially as the contrast between an airy tent and a 
furnished room is considerable. 

However, to judge from the youthful European of the 
place, the Fergusons' baby boy, a perfect picture of health, 
Yezd must possess an uncommonly good climate in spite 
of its trying heat. 

One day the Fergusons got up a picnic to the Parsee 
dakme, or place of exposure of the dead, some six miles off. 
The party consisted of all the Europeans in the place, about 
ten, including ourselves. One gentleman was terribly nervous 
on horseback, and rode his pony at a walk, a servant holding 
it by the head the whole way there and back. Much as I 
regretted that Persian eyes should be regaled with such a 
spectacle, yet it was a matter of thankfulness that the 
European in question was not a compatriot. 

The two towers in which the dead are exposed are 
erected on the summits of hills near together. We climbed 
a rocky spur to get a view of the old dakme, which was 
merely a large, square, low-walled enclosure, full of bleached 
bones and skulls ; but the new one was more carefully built, 

6 



66 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

so that not even the most curious eye could get a glimpse 
of the relics of mortality within its high walls, and it had one 
small door through which the bodies are carried to be eaten 
by the ever-expectant vultures and crows. 

The Parsees, or Gabres (infidels), as they are called in 
Persia, believe that if the birds pluck out the right eye of the 
corpse first it is a sign that the man's soul is in bliss, but if it 
unfortunately happens that the left eye is given a prior claim, 
then the survivors are forced to hold gloomy views regarding 
the future residence of the deceased. 

The men who carry the dead to these Towers of Silence 
are unclean ; and so afraid are Parsees of incurring contami- 
nation by coming in contact with a corpse, that they often 
leave the dying untended towards the last, lest these latter 
may expire while their friends are in the act of touching 
them ; and they hold that they are defiled if they so much 
as brush against the wall of the dakme. A dog is usually 
called in to decide whether a Parsee is dead or not. A piece 
of bread is placed on the breast of the supposed corpse, and 
if the canine arbitrator devours this, it is a sure sign that life 
is extinct. 

A dust storm came on as we rode home, blotting out the 
entire landscape, and rendering the minarets and badgir of 
Yezd invisible, the sun looking like a little white blotch 
through the dun-coloured haze of sand which enveloped us, 
and which only allowed us to see a small portion of the track 
just in front. 

Next day a Parsee deputation waited on my brother. 
Eight venerable leaders of that race arrived ; fine old men, 
but attired in coats and turbans of a hideous shade of 
mustard brown. Their Mahommedan oppressors will not 
permit them to wear the flowing abba, or Persian cloak, 
and restrict them to dingy yellows and browns. However, 
no one seems to have interfered with the dress of the 
women, who have long, loose jackets of parti-coloured 
chintzes, and wonderful baggy trousers, a mass of embroidery 
worked on stripes of different colours ; so that with many 
checked handkerchiefs wrapping up their heads, they present 
a very gay appearance. 



ON THE MARCH TO YEZD 67 

A Hungarian traveller, M. de Rakovszky, was stopping at 
Yezd en route to Kerman. He had been charge d'affaires at 
the Austrian Legation at Tehran, so that we had many 
mutual friends, and trusted that his search for old carpets 
and antiques would keep him longer at Kerman than he 
anticipated. As moreover, Mr. Carless, one of the Isfahan 
missionaries, intended to arrive at our new home some five 
weeks after our installation, we felt that we were by no means 
going into the exile that some of our friends prophesied for 
us, and it was with light hearts and high hopes that we left 
our kind friends at Yezd and set off again " on the march." 



CHAPTER VI 

THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 

SPRING was coming on fast as we left Yezd ; and, indeed, 
it seems almost absurd to talk of winter in Persia, where 
it only lasts for a few weeks at the most. Even during the 
cold of January the barley may be seen springing up in the 
fields, and cauliflowers, lettuces, and many other vegetables 
were never lacking in the Legation gardens at Tehran. It 
was nearly the middle of March when we began the first 
stage of our two-hundred-mile journey to Kerman, leaving 
our " next-door neighbours," the Fergusons, behind us. 

We were fortunate enough to have a guest on the second 
night of our journey, for M. de Rakovszky chaparing down to 
Kerman turned up about six o'clock, and we passed a most en- 
joyable evening in his company. He was engaged in writing 
a book describing the different types of horses to be found in 
Central Asia, and intended to illustrate it with many photo- 
graphs. Besides his fondness for horses he had much artistic 
taste, and it was specially interesting to hear him talk about 
Persian handiwork, and I remember the description of one of 
his carpets, which had taken five years to weave, and must 
have been a perfect " marvel of the loom," the design worked 
out in many-coloured silks on a ground of bright gold filigree 
thread. He was one of the examples of the profound attrac- 
tion which the East possesses for travellers, bringing them 
back to it again and again almost against their will. Persia 
was his loadstone ; and when he spoke of the freedom of its 
limitless deserts ; of the magnificent panorama of its barren 
ranges, and of the joy of life engendered by its perpetual 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 69 

sunshine, I felt all the charm which had held me from the 
beginning increase and intensify. 

For the next few weeks we had high spring winds and fre- 
quent heavy showers of rain, and were obliged to take refuge 
for the night in chapar khanas (post houses) whenever we could, 
as often it would have been impossible to pitch the tents, so 
violent were the gales. Unpleasant though the weather was, 
yet the landscape effects were so fine as in great part to com- 
pensate for it. We could see the black storm-clouds rushing 
up and covering one part of the vast expanse of sky, while 
the sun would be shining brightly in a turquoise heaven in 
another quarter, and half the mountain ranges would be 
obscured in mists, while the other peaks would be gleaming 
with the most brilliant tints. At Shims, where we spent our 
fifth night after leaving Yezd, the best room was allotted to 
me, a small apartment with a rickety door, the frame of which 
was partly broken away from the mud walls, and so warped 
that it could not be induced to shut closely, the window being 
a mere round hole minus glass or a shutter. Towards even- 
ing the wind became so violent that it burst open the door, 
and it needed all my force to hold it while my brother 
brought box after box to pile against it. Before this hap- 
pened, however, I amused myself by watching from the roof 
a big caravan of camels partaking of their evening meal. 
They are always divided into messes of ten or a dozen, and 
kneel down like a company of Persians round their sacking 
tablecloth, heaped with chopped straw. There is no quar- 
relling whatever, each animal munching solemnly away, 
thrusting his long neck forward to take a mouthful, and con- 
ducting himself with the utmost propriety. 

We were now in Kerman territory, and guards persisted in 
escorting us during each march, while at Anar, our first halt 
where there was any considerable population, a guard of 
honour came out to greet the Consul. This consisted of ten 
men armed with guns, and wearing for uniform short blue 
cotton coats with red cotton shoulder-straps, which had a 
comical effect, as their long Persian coats, worn underneath, 
hung far below them. Their leader carried a stick and had 



70 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the distinction of sporting brass buttons on his coat. They 
drew up as we rode towards them, attempting a salute — not 
a brilliant success, as they persisted in bowing at the same 
time — and then they marched proudly in front of us towards 
the town, hopping at intervals to keep step with one another. 
All the inhabitants turned out to stare at us as we passed 
through the mud gateway, but our odd escort struck out 
at them vigorously until they disappeared, only to re- 
appear in our wake. We were conducted to our quarters, 
an unfinished mud house in a so-called garden, with un- 
plastered walls, no fastenings on the doors, and no glass in 
the windows. As a high wind was blowing up clouds of 
dust from the surrounding desert, this was by no means an 
ideal resting-place ; yet a Yezd acquaintance, chaparing 
down to Kerman on business, was thankful to put up with us, 
instead of stopping at the caravanserai. His eyes were sore 
from the dust, and he was much fatigued with his rapid 
journey, as he usually left at one o'clock every morning, 
reaching his night's quarters late in the afternoon. 

It may not be amiss here to explain the difference between 
this fast mode of travel by post-horses and our slow one by 
caravan. To go by the latter is a somewhat leisurely pro- 
ceeding, but to my mind the most pleasant conceivable of 
making a journey when the weather is good, and the servants, 
horses, and supplies ditto. The other way is to chapar y 
or post, from stage to stage, and this system comprises the 
maximum of speed with the minimum of comfort. The 
European, usually accompanied by one servant only, invari- 
ably tries to break the record as to the number of farsakhs 
(three miles) he can ride in a day, changing his wretched 
steed at the end of every twelve to twenty miles, according 
to the stage, and snatching a hasty meal or half-hour's repose 
while fresh animals are being got ready for him to proceed 
upon his journey. He can, of course, carry scarcely anything 
with him in the way of bedding or food, and when he arrives, 
worn out, at his resting-place for the night, he is lucky if he 
can get a room fairly free from draughts, and such luxuries 
as eggs and fowls for supper. 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 71 

It may be easily understood that chaparing necessitates 
the traveller keeping to the main roads where there are post- 
houses, instead of being able to choose his own route, as we 
did with our caravan. The horses being few in number, he 
will often find that they have already been monopolised to 
carry the mails or some traveller just ahead of him. In that 
case he has the choice of remounting the tired animal which 
has brought him thus far on his way, or of spending several 
hours in the dirty, unfurnished rooms of a Persian chapar 
khana. It needs a strong constitution to withstand the 
fatigues and privations of a long chapar ride, and a bad 
attack of fever is no uncommon sequel to such an exploit. 

The high winds still blew continuously as we proceeded on 
our way, across plain after plain clothed with the scantiest 
of scrub, and encircled with the barrenest of hills, and we 
found our luncheons in the open air somewhat trying in a 
country where there was never a tree or even a rock to 
protect us from the fury of the blast. 

These spring gales apparently did not allow any rain to 
descend on the low ground, although we had an experience 
one day, which showed us how heavily it had been raining in 
the mountains. 

After passing Kush Kuh we came upon our whole caravan 
at a dead halt, and found the country was flooded for some 
miles, looking like a great lake. The muleteers wanted to 
return to the village we had left, and wait for the morrow, 
hoping that the floods would subside by that time ; but as 
the afternoon was still early, and the water did not seem to 
be at all deep, they were ordered to cross at once. The first 
mule was unlucky, falling right over on its side, and the 
united efforts of six men could not lift it on its legs until 
they had unloaded it ; and even then they were obliged to 
half carry it to a shallower part. The muleteers bared their 
legs and probed the water in every direction with their long 
staves, coming across nasty holes here and there ; but with all 
their efforts the small hoofs of the mules had less chance in 
the liquid mud than the larger ones of the horses. We 
watched for some time, and as animal after animal fell and 



72 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

had to be pulled up again, we felt we had better cross our- 
selves and press on with the " tea mule " to our halting-place. 
We were careful to keep to the road, though the ground often 
looked better at some distance from it, my brother saying 
that the track from constant traffic must be far harder and 
safer, and that if we left it we should inevitably get stuck in 
bad places. The first three streams were the worst. It was 
a horrible sensation to feel my horse slipping and floundering 
under me, and I got ready to spring off if he came to grief. 
However, though he nearly " sat down " three or four times, 
and I got quite dizzy with the water swirling round me, and 
the curious feeling that my steed was making no way at all, 
yet we both stumbled through our six miles of flood in safety, 
and reached Dafa some time after sunset, our horses taking 
three hours to do this short distance, and the mules seven. 
It was past ten o'clock that night before we got any dinner, 
but we were thankful to be safely over that piece of our road ; 
for if it had rained again we should probably have been 
obliged to wait some two or three days until the flood had 
subsided. The only box whose contents were seriously 
damaged was the one containing my brother's uniform, part 
of which, unluckily, was quite ruined, but we could not 
complain, as we felt that we had really been most fortunate 
in getting the greater part of our baggage safe and sound. 

Our next march was to Bahramabad, and as we could not 
find a good place at which to halt for breakfast, my brother 
decided to go to Mehdiabad, a small village at some distance 
from the road, where he had spent a night with the Farman 
Farma (a Persian prince, formerly Governor of Kerman), 
two years ago at the house of its owner, Mahomet Khan. 
The villagers, however, said that the garden was no longer 
in good order, and took us into a dirty courtyard, full of 
women and young children, which they declared was the 
identical place of which we were in search. As we were 
remounting our horses in disgust, my brother's old friend 
suddenly appeared, gesticulating furiously and calling out 
hearty welcomes. He insisted that we should lunch with 
him, and, leaving a servant to conduct us to his house, 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 73 

disappeared on hospitable thoughts intent. The entrance 
to his mansion was, as is customary in Persia, of the shab- 
biest, and we waited for him in an untidy courtyard, with 
dilapidated rooms built round it, his biroon, or outside 
dwelling-place, where he would receive all visits of ceremony 
or business. After awhile he reappeared, and seizing my 
brother's arm with effusion (he obviously disapproved of poor 
me !) led us along passages into a prettily laid-out garden, 
with a tank in the centre, round which were the living-rooms, 
or anderoon. Pulling aside a curtain, we found ourselves in 
his drawing-room, white-plastered and alcoved, with a row of 
windows along one side, opening on to the garden, their 
glassless panes being filled in with fine white linen. The furni- 
ture consisted of two sets of big cushions on either side the 
windows, where we were invited to seat ourselves, while the 
floor was laid with felts, covered with lengths of a gaudy 
cotton material. At one end was a fireplace, above which 
was a row of the commonest of brass lamps, and there 
was quite a collection of art treasures arranged in the 
alcove. 

Several badly coloured prints in stamped cardboard 
mounts, gilt-framed mirrors of inferior quality, and Bohemian 
glass ornaments of a kind I have often seen in my visits to 
English cottages, gave an undesirable European cachet to 
the sunny room. It was curious to notice what a passion 
these Persians had for duplicates of their pictures, half a 
dozen copies of several of these works of art being stuck up 
on the walls, all close to one another, as if their owners 
desired to compare the excellence of their printing. 

Our stout, toothless, rosy-cheeked host, clad in European 
trousers, full-skirted, blue frock-coat, and brown felt skull- 
cap, talked incessantly in a high key, while the women of the 
house peeped at me eagerly through the windows. Seeing 
this, Mahomet Khan darted out of the room and brought his 
wife and daughter-in-law up to the window to be presented 
to me. They bowed and smiled as I leant out to them, 
obligingly drawing aside the scarlet sheets in which they 
were shrouded to show me rich brocaded jackets, short, 



74 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

stiffly-standing-out skirts and long, white trousers, while 
their necks and arms were hung with strings of beads. I 
should have much liked to have talked to them, but as my 
knowledge of their language was of the most elementary 
order, I judged it better to confine myself to salutations 
and smiles. The son of the house, a languid young man, 
appeared before long, and I felt sorry for him and his father, 
as they sat uncomfortably, European fashion, on a high 
plaster platform, their dangling white-stockinged feet tacitly 
reproaching us for being in boots. The whole household had 
been asleep, as the month of Ramazan was not yet over, but 
our visit had roused them up, and women rushed frantically 
hither and thither to prepare our lunch, while my brother's 
conversation was enjoyed, not only by our hosts, but by two 
young men-servants, who stood outside leaning in at the 
open window, interposing their remarks and comments at 
intervals. 

Hashim, who brought in our table and chairs, at once 
burst into a flood of eloquence, and was listened to with 
the respectful attention that Persian gentlemen invariably 
accord to the utterances of servants. The preparations for 
lunch seemed interminable, and although it made its appear- 
ance about two o'clock, yet after my seven o'clock breakfast 
and ride, I felt half-famished, and was glad of the invitation 
to set to on the somewhat unsubstantial feast of sweetmeats, 
cream cheese, and bowls of mast, or curds, with which the 
table was spread as a sort of zakoushka. 

At last some excellent chicken-rissoles, an omelet and 
kabobs arrived, our glasses being filled up with lumps of ice 
before clear water was poured into them, and I found the curds 
went very well with one of the sweetmeats, which consisted 
of boiled sugar spun to the fineness of thread. I could not help 
feeling sorry as I perceived our hosts and the servants watching 
us hungrily, reflecting that it must certainly double the severity 
of their fast to see others enjoying what they must perforce 
abstain from till sunset. The conversation, however, never 
languished. The old gentleman entered with the keenest 
interest into all the details of my brother's journey through 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 75 

Baluchistan during the past year, examined our rifles minutely, 
and told us how his son was a great traveller, having visited 
Mecca, Kerbelah, and even Tiflis and Constantinople. Upon 
this the pallid young man roused himself to ask if we should 
like to see a collection of photos he had of his travels, and 
despatched one of his servants for a large leather-covered box. 
This he opened with great ceremony, by means of a key hang- 
ing round his neck, and produced a small scarlet book priced 
at a franc, containing common lithographs of all the chief cities 
of Europe; being a French production, London naturally 
coming near the end. Seeing the reverence with which he 
regarded this memento of his adventurous journeys, we had 
perforce to feign an intense interest in it ; but it was a welcome 
diversion when a dwarf, with a jolly, shrewd face and grey 
beard appeared, who, in his blue cotton blouse and old felt cap, 
looked the very image of the German gnomes with which the 
illustrated fairy tales of my childhood had familiarised me. 
He was no bigger than a child of six or eight years old, but 
they told us he was some fifty years of age, and joked with him 
in great style, evidently looking upon him as the buffoon of the 
establishment. 

The women peeped in upon us at intervals, and the old man, 
perceiving that my eyes were fixed on a baby that one of them 
carried, sprang out of the window and brought his tiny grand- 
daughter in to display her to us. The dear little thing was 
rosy and laughing merrily, but its lot as a Persian infant was 
not an enviable one, as its whole body was tightly bandaged 
in scarlet chintz, the arms bound to its sides, though its 
hands were free. A richly embroidered velvet cap on its head 
and a big muslin frill round the neck completed one of the 
quaintest costumes I had ever seen on a mother's darling. The 
grandfather was immensely proud of it, but the languid father 
took not the slightest notice of his child beyond saying, when 
my brother spoke against the practice of bandaging, that he 
himself thought it very foolish, but that the women would have 
it so. When we said goodbye to our kind entertainers the 
whole village was assembled to see us off; a tomtom was 
beaten, and hospitable old Mahomet Khan escorted us a mile 



76 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

or two on our way, promising to ride over the next day to see 
us again. 

There was a slightly undulating country between us and 
Bahramabad, barren and treeless, as is usual in Persia where 
there is so little water ; but we perceived a good deal of culti- 
vation as we neared the town, which lies low down on the 
plain. Somewhat to our dismay we found that we had not yet 
done with floods, as about a mile of water was stretching in all 
directions, encircling Bahramabad with a gleaming girdle, and 
covering the fields of young barley, which we trusted would 
not be irretrievably damaged by such a long-continued 
submersion. 

Some soldiers rode out to guide us in — a necessary precau- 
tion, as the ground was intersected with irrigation channels, 
now of considerable depth, and every here and there were large 
holes filled up with water and having a most deceptive appear- 
ance. As we splashed along to the gateway of the town, 
where a great crowd was assembled to welcome the consul, I 
confess I felt somewhat nervous lest my floundering horse 
should finally roll over and deposit me in the mire, which 
would be a by no means dignified entrance. 

However, no such catastrophe occurred, and when we reached 
dry land we could spare our sympathy for the miserable con- 
dition of the town, half the houses having collapsed during the 
recent rains, mud being but an indifferent building material for 
wet weather, and the whole place apparently standing in a 
morass. The inhabitants, poor things, seemed to forget their 
troubles for the time in their interest at our appearance, and 
looked a most picturesque throng in all the colours of the 
rainbow, the snowy turbans crowning the greens, blues and 
scarlets of their tunics, while sheepskin coats here and there 
added to the general effect. 

A loud salaam resounded from hundreds of throats, and 
hundreds of eyes fixed themselves in one concentrated stare 
upon us (on these occasions I always used to wonder what sort 
of an impression we made upon the aborigines ! ) ; while a 
huge grey monkey, led with a chain, made obeisances in fine 
style; and the usual squalid guard presented arms and fell into 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 77 

rank, marching before us to our quarters — some rooms open 
on all sides to the air in a swampy garden. We put up our 
tents inside the rooms, and when we had settled in, our Yezd 
acquaintance arrived to dinner, as the floods had delayed him 
on his journey to Kerman. He told us that from the roof of 
the Bahramabad caravanserai he had seen houses collapsing 
one after another around him, and the drainage channel was 
turned into a roaring torrent some thirty yards wide, sweeping 
away everything in its course. 

Next morning deputations of Parsees and Hindoos came to 
call on my brother, and the Governor arrived later to pay his 
respects, all bringing offerings of lambs, sweetmeats, and loaves 
of sugar, gifts which are somewhat of the nature of white 
elephants to their recipients, who are obliged to give about 
double their value in money to the men who bring them, and 
are, moreover, expected to hand over the lion's share to their 
voracious servants. We were just sitting down to lunch when 
cheery old Mahomet Khan and a youthful relative of his came 
in. I was so sorry that they must again fast while we were 
eating, but they took great interest in our illustrated papers, 
and turned to Hashim for explanations, who gave them volubly, 
while Shah Sowar (our second waiter) more honestly confessed 
his inability to comprehend what the Feringhee pictures were 
about. Hashim much enjoyed that meal, as for once in a way 
he understood the conversation, joining frequently in it, to 
help it along. He must often have been dull when waiting 
on us, owing to his lack of comprehension of our language, for 
which we were truly thankful ; but his ears were ever on the 
alert, as if by any chance he heard an English word resem- 
bling some Persian one he would immediately rush into speech, 
and expatiate at cross-purposes on what he imagined we were 
talking about. That evening he and Abu, our cook, had one 
of their periodical quarrels, and when later on the former came 
to us with his arm streaming with blood, I at once jumped to 
the conclusion that knives had been in requisition instead of 
their usual weapon, the tongue. However, it appeared that 
Hashim was in the habit of inflicting a weekly bleeding upon 
himself, judging it to be good for his health, and this time 



78 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

having cut deeper than he intended, he was seized with mortal 
alarm and needed much bandaging before he could be induced 
to believe that his life was not in danger. I was considerably 
pestered here by the women, who swarmed into the flooded 
garden to survey me. They were dressed in full white trousers 
and were covered in white or blue sheets, and unveiling their 
faces, which were wreathed in smiles, they said they really must 
look at me, for such a sight as a European lady had never 
before delighted their eyes, and I had not the heart to drive 
them away. 

The road out of Bahramabad was by a labyrinth of tiny 
paths, along the side of streams. We passed house after 
house gutted by the floods ; and our horses had to pick 
their way gingerly for fear of the numerous mud-holes. The 
inhabitants followed us in crowds, and every here and there we 
came upon fresh detachments, looking as gay as flower-beds 
in their brilliant garments. I heard afterwards that I was the 
great attraction, as it passed their comprehension how I could 
sit on a horse sideways and not come off when I cantered. It 
was a cold, dull day, and as soon as we had left the town a 
wind began to rise, and got worse as we rode on ; great clouds 
of dust arose and blotted out the landscape, half blinding us 
and cutting our faces, driven against us with such force as 
almost to hurl us from our saddles. The swirling sand com- 
pletely covered the track in places, so that we must have 
lost our way if the blasts of wind had not swept it clear at 
intervals, and we were thankful to arrive at Kabutarkhan 
with nothing worse than sore eyes. 

A few inhabitants, shivering in their cotton garments, had 
struggled to the entrance of the village to receive the Consul, 
whom they would have honoured by slaughtering a sheep in 
front of our horses if my brother had not stopped the sacrifice 
just in time. 

The house assigned to us was one belonging to the Sahib 
Diwan (Governor of Kerman), two of its few rooms being 
carpeted, and one boasting a divan. My room had no less 
than ten doors, the majority serving as windows, their top 
halves divided off into panes, filled in with torn white paper. 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 79 

Although by no means a dust-proof abode, here we had to 
stay two days until the fury of the gale was abated, and heavy 
floods of rain fell, clearing the atmosphere. We were not 
sorry for the halt, as all of us, including the horses, were 
suffering more or less from the effects of the storm and, 
curiously enough, all the watches of the party were tem- 
porarily deranged. 

We made our way to Robat through an undulating country 
seemingly composed of a series of hillocks having deep fissures 
cut into their sides by the winter torrents, and found our tents 
pitched on a sandy plain. An old friend of my brother's — I 
forget his name- — rode from his eyrie in the hills to greet the 
Consul. He was a gaunt figure in long top-boots, with a blue 
smock showing beneath his short brown jacket, his costume 
completed by a huge, flapping, felt hat. These men resemble 
mediaeval barons, sole lords of villages at long distances apart, 
their society consisting of their families and retainers. They 
ride forth after game with hawk and hound, followed by a 
horde of attendants, sons of the house, poor relatives and 
servants, all mixed up together and treated much alike, with- 
out any fine distinctions of person. 

On March 30th my brother made his entrance into Kerman 
as Consul. The servants could hardly attend to any of our 
wants the day before, so busy were they getting his uniform 
into order and smartening themselves up in preparation for 
the istakbal) or procession, in which most of them were to 
take part. From lowest to highest Persians have a passion 
for any kind of show, and their own proverb, "Fill the 
eyes of a Persian," serves to illustrate this love of dis- 
play. 

On NoruZ) or New Year's Day, it is customary in Persia 
to give every servant either a suit of clothes or a month's 
wages. My brother had fitted up our following at Tehran 
with dark blue cloth liveries, and these they now donned 
for the first time in order to make an impression on the 
Kermanis. 

We halted some eight miles from Kerman on the evening 
preceding the great day, and my brother and most of the 



8o THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

servants went off about half-past seven the next morning, 
leaving me with two or three men to come on in the after- 
noon. 

It seemed an interminably long time to all who were left 
behind. The servants slept and smoked, coming to me every 
half-hour or so to ask if it were time for my lunch, and finally 
getting it ready at half-past nine. 

For my part I read and wrote ; but my thoughts were full 
of the goal of our long journey. Now that the travelling was 
at an end, I longed to settle down and begin housekeeping in 
the home which Nasrullah Khan had gone on ahead some 
days ago to engage for us. About three in the afternoon the 
syce turned up leading my horse, his face one broad grin of 
joy. He did not say a word good or bad to any one until 
he had mounted me and we were off. Then his tongue was 
loosened, and he burst into a flood of information about our 
new house, having no words adequate to describe its beauties, 
and therefore gave himself free rein on the subject of the 
istakbal He told me that the Sahib had met the procession 
a couple of miles from Kerman, where a tent was pitched, in 
which the leading men of the town were assembled, and 
where they made his acquaintance over tea and sherbets. 
He was then invited to mount a minute steed with a Persian 
saddle, gorgeous in velvet and gold trappings, but declined 
to part from his faithful " Cotmore." 

My little groom then waxed eloquent about the soldiers 
in uniform ; the ferashes bearing silver maces ; the led horses; 
the civic worthies ; and the army who saluted the procession 
at the city gates with kettledrums, repeating the performance 
at intervals until the Consul had reached his own residence. 
He told me with many a chuckle how the Governor, the old 
Sahib Diwan, saw all unobserved, as he imagined, from his 
citadel near the town gate, but was as a matter of fact seen 
by everybody in turn. As we neared Kerman, which appeared 
like a mud-walled enclosure, crowded with domed mud houses 
and a sprinkling of mosques and shrines, we were met by my 
brother, and made a long round outside the walls to our new 
residence. No words can describe my intense eagerness to 



THE GOAL OF OUR JOURNEY 81 

see the home where we expected to spend the next year 
of our lives. At last I espied a white fagade gleaming 
among the trees, and we had reached the Consulate. We 
passed through an archway, guarded by soldiers, into a 
paved courtyard, with the usual tank of goldfish and beds 
of marigolds and irises, round which were built rooms with 
prettily moulded white walls ; then up a steep flight of high 
steps to the balakhana, or upper storey, where much of my 
life would be passed. This consisted of four rooms, with 
windows on each side opening on to broad terraces, and 
giving views of the large garden cool with big trees and 
running water on the one side, and of the two picturesque 
ruined fortresses of old Kerman on the other. I examined 
my pretty sitting-room, with its many stained-glass windows 
set in six large arches, its artistic plaster mouldings on the 
walls and lofty ceiling ; and as I watched the sunset behind 
the western hills, and we rested, enjoying the soft air, and 
lulled by the liquid music of frogs and tree-crickets, I was 
filled with a great content, for my new home far surpassed 
anything that I had hoped or even wished for. 



CHAPTER VII 

HOUSEKEEPING AT KERMAN 

IT was the end of March when we began our new life at 
Kerman, which we entered upon at the most charming 
season of the year in Persia, before the heat of summer had 
commenced to scorch up all the flowers and vegetables. 

During the previous October we had sent off our stores 
and luggage from London via Karachi to Bunder Abbas, on 
the Persian Gulf, and as this port is only a fifteen days' 
journey from Kerman, it was a disappointment, on our arrival 
at the latter town, to find that only about half our baggage 
had reached its destination. 

Our glass and china, piano, camera and pictures, with many 
other treasures, were still at the coast, nor could repeated 
letters to the Custom House officials and Persian agents there 
bring our belongings to Kerman before the end of September, 
while the piano only turned up half-way through January of 
the following year, just three days before we left our home 
for good ! 

I had started life in Persia, however, with a firm determina- 
tion not to worry more than was strictly needful, and so was 
not greatly overcome when I discovered that some of my 
dresses were ruined by bilge-water getting into the packing- 
cases, our consignment of wax matches being two-thirds 
spoilt from the same cause, while our packets of compressed 
tea and coffee had become mysteriously soaked with kerosene. 

Our life was so novel that we could well afford to see the 

comic side of such little contretemps, and, as most of our 

small supply of furniture was waiting transport at Bunder 

82 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 83 

Abbas, I set to work to arrange our drawing-room somewhat 
after the manner of the couple in " Our Flat," improvising 
tables, seats, stands for nicknacks and so on, out of packing- 
cases draped with Como rugs and Persian embroideries, 
which really gave the room quite a home-like look, when I 
brought out my photos and nailed up a few fans and pictures 
on the small spaces of white plastered wall between the 
ranges of stained-glass windows. The servants seconded me 
manfully, taking the deepest interest in our "Lares and 
Penates," and plying hammer and nails with much zeal but 
indifferent skill. Hashim, who from the very first had 
assumed a sort of partnership in our belongings, was, how- 
ever, greatly upset at the non-arrival of our glass and 
crockery, saying sadly to me in the intervals of house deco- 
ration, " Ah, Khartum " (mistress), " we (!) shall not be able 
to give really good parties with only our camp-things." 

We were both so fully occupied at first that we did not 
go beyond the garden for two or three days. This was 
some six acres in extent, enclosed with high mud walls, 
and planted with long avenues of poplars and fruit trees ; 
while most of the ground was taken up with crops of barley 
and lucerne, the vegetables proper, such as spinach, beans, 
onions, and so on, growing all together in one plot. Four 
great trees grew in the middle, shading a couple of mud 
takts, or platforms, where Persians love to sit, drink tea, and 
sleep in hot weather, while running water, trailing vines, and 
bursting rosebuds added charm to a spot whose wildness and 
luxuriance reminded me of a deserted Italian garden. 

On the third day after our arrival M. de Rakovszky ap- 
peared, and at once agreed to stay with us, we being only 
too delighted to welcome such an interesting guest, more 
especially as he was the only European besides ourselves in 
the place. He was in treaty for the ancient carpet in the 
famous shrine of Shah Niamatullah at Mahun, some twenty 
miles from Kerman ; but so intricate are the ways of Oriental 
bargaining that it was over a month before he got it into his 
possession. This carpet, which I saw later on, had been 
presented to the shrine by Shah Abbas in the sixteenth 



84 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

century, was much worn and cut up into as many as thirty 
pieces, which the Persians had re-joined with no regard to 
the pattern. But in spite of being nearly threadbare, so that 
the original colours were difficult to discern, one could not 
but admire the design of grand medallions on a dark crimson 
ground, filled in with leaves and branches, and bordered with 
verses in Persian characters on a series of oblongs. Cruelly 
as it had been treated, yet the lovely yellows, rich reds, and 
indigos were still undimmed in places, and now it must be 
the pride of the museum to which its possessor presented it. 

On our arrival at Kerman the weather was very unsettled 
for some time, and nearly every afternoon we had the by no 
means agreeable experience of a sand storm. 

The sky would become quite dark, and the beautiful blue 
of the heavens would be obscured with a thick yellow cloud, 
which would advance towards us, blotting out the entire land- 
scape, even to the trees in the garden below. The servants 
would rush to shut all the windows and doors, but the putty- 
less panes of the former and the ill-fitting fastenings of the 
latter were but a poor protection against fine sand. Another 
moment, and we could hear the cloud break against our 
barriers with an odd gritty swish, leaving floors, books, and 
ornaments covered with a thick layer of reddish dust ; and 
then the wind would carry the sand on its way, and usually a 
heavy shower of rain would descend and clear the atmo- 
sphere, making everything deliciously cool and fresh. 

We settled into a routine as time went on ; my brother 
went off to the stables and then on to his office after 
breakfast, and I began my housekeeping — a novel experience 
into which I entered with all the enthusiasm of a beginner. 
My kitchen was an unplastered, large, mud room, opening out 
into the courtyard, and contained a big oven which had to be 
heated by burning logs of wood in it, and then raking out 
the embers, and a long charcoal range, consisting of a series 
of square tiled holes, above which the saucepans rested. We 
had taken the trouble to bring out an English oven of a new 
description, i.e., a couple of big, iron boxes with shelves, and 
a place for the fire between them ; but our cooks invariably 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 85 

excused themselves from using this apparently most conve- 
nient arrangement. 

Mud takts, or niches to hold pots or pans, and a deep hole 
in the mud floor down which to pour all dirty water, vege- 
table peelings, &c. (a plan which ensured the maximum of 
smell, and the minimum of cleanliness, as it was a big opera- 
tion to have it emptied), completed the furnishing of my 
kitchen. No dresser, no shining crockery, no table or chairs, 
and a noticeable absence of knives, forks, and such small 
articles. The saucepans were of copper, tinned inside, with 
the exception of those we brought with us from England, 
and were a perpetual anxiety to me, as, although I had them 
re-tinned every fortnight, yet certain favourite ones were 
always in use, and were unfit to cook food in after a week. 
My first act every morning was to inspect each cooking 
vessel, and it took a considerable amount of energy to get 
the remains of one meal emptied out of the saucepans before 
a fresh dish was commenced in them, and I soon found that 
I must explore the recesses of the large cooking-boxes, as my 
cook had an unpleasant habit of hiding vegetables cooked a 
day or two before, so as to save himself the trouble of pre- 
paring a fresh lot for each meal. To fine Abu ten shahis 
(2jd.) for each dirty vessel was the only way of appealing 
to his feelings, although it was an unpleasant method to 
resort to, as it made him sulky, and covertly insolent to boot. 
He would tell me lie after lie, with such admirable self- 
possession, looking me straight in the face with such guile- 
less eyes the while, that he often fairly staggered me. 
However, his perversions of the truth were not consistent, 
and this betrayed him. Thereupon I would say, " That is 
not true," and when he perceived that he was found out, he 
would answer cheerfully and without a trace of shame, " Yes, 
Kkanum, it was a lie ! " 

From the kitchen I went to the store-room, cook and 
kitchen-boy carrying a regiment of pots and pans behind me, 
and here fresh trials of patience awaited the housekeeper. 
All Persian servants enter service to get as much out of their 
master as they possibly can by fair means or foul. They 



86 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

look upon it as a sort of sport, do not think it wrong, and set 
more store on the chance of perquisites than on the rate of 
their wages. 

In Persian houses the servants are fed, finishing up the 
pillau when their masters have eaten their fill, and are paid 
little, if anything, in coin ; but Europeans give good wages, 
and expect their dependents to cater for themselves. 

Abu was a thorough thief, rapacious to a degree, and I 
confess I was by no means a match for him at first. As I 
was determined not to worry overmuch about trifles, I got 
into the habit of considering that I was playing a game with 
my cook and the other servants. At first they won all round, 
but after awhile I began to score myself, and felt con- 
siderably elated when Sultan Sukru informed me one day 
that all the servants were blaming him, and saying that he 
had told the Khanum so much that they could hardly cheat 
at all now ! I also learnt by experience that a margin must 
be allowed for housekeeping in the East, as, if not, the 
friction becomes incessant, although I must confess that the 
margin was considerable when a dinner-party was in pros- 
pect, as every house-servant, on such an occasion, expected 
to share in the meal which I had to provide for the servants of 
our guests. 

On the whole, I had a harassing six months with Seyid 
Abu, and was only too thankful when I was at last quit of 
this descendant of the Prophet. 

It happened in this wise. He took to himself a wife in 
Kerman, and, in the enjoyment of her society, forsook us 
almost entirely, turning up about 9 a.m. in the morning to 
get his orders from me for the day, and to assist at the giving 
out of supplies. Then he would take all he could lay his 
hands on and return to the town till the same time the next 
morning. Meanwhile the kitchen-boy cooked everything as 
well, if not better, than his master ; so one morning Abu 
was told that his merely nominal services were no longer 
required, and I entered upon a reign of peace with two small 
shagirds (kitchen boys), who developed shortly into really 
excellent cooks, and who, when their master fell from power, 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 87 

brought me stores of stolen butter which he had hidden 
away in the kitchen. 

In Persia, and I believe throughout the East, it is not 
possible for the upper classes, be they European or Oriental, 
to do their own shopping in the Bazaars. If a Persian 
gentleman ventured to buy something at a stall in riding 
through the long, covered alleys, he would be considered to 
have laid a deadly insult on the servant accompanying him, 
and would at once get a " bad name " in the place, a thing 
much dreaded in the East. 

The custom of the country is to entrust all purchases to a 
nazir, or steward, who goes every day to make them, hand- 
ing in his account periodically. An honest, nazir takes 
about 10 per cent, on all commissions, and this custom cuts 
both ways, because, although your servant makes his profit, 
yet he gets the articles far cheaper than you could possibly 
do, bargain as you might. 

Seyid Abu, my cook, used to do the shopping at first, but 
as his ideas of percentage were seldom lower than fifty, and 
as we had, in consequence, unpleasant scenes over his 
accounts, which I insisted on checking and settling daily, 
the syce. Fakir Mahomet, was entrusted with the coveted 
position, and I had the satisfaction of feeling that however 
much he might be imposed upon, he would invariably deal fairly 
with his mistress, as his honesty was his strong point. Nas- 
rullah Khan used occasionally to wax sarcastic when we 
dined off stringy roosters, aged sheep, or inferior rice, and 
used to quote a Persian proverb to the effect that when the 
Lurs (a nomad tribe) came into the bazaar, every one pro- 
duced articles that they could not pass off on their ordinary 
customers ; and he would apply this to the syce, who, how- 
ever, gained experience in time. His great mania was to 
save our money for us, and occasionally this parsimony on 
our account was a little trying, as when I grumbled about 
the quality of his purchases he would triumphantly cite their 
extraordinary cheapness ! 

Certainly living in Kerman was by no means expensive, 
as meat and bread were under a penny a pound, eggs ten a 



88 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

penny, chickens twopence, a minute lamb fourpence half- 
penny, and all the ordinary articles of food in the same pro- 
portion. Our bill of fare, however, had a sameness about it ; 
the " eternal mutton and everlasting fowl," being only occa- 
sionally varied by pigeons, quails, partridges, and a rare ahu, 
or gazelle, while we never tasted beef until December, when 
the weather was cool enough to keep meat for a considerable 
time ; no Persians at Kerman, or indeed elsewhere, indulging 
in that food, which they look upon as low class. 

We paid a penny daily for our vegetables to the old 
gardener who rented the garden from our landlord, advancing 
to twopence in the fruit season, when we consumed any 
quantity of mulberries, apricots, peaches, melons, figs, and 
grapes. The same man also supplied us with milk, hiring 
out to us a cow which was tethered in the garden, with its 
calf, and carefully fed. We had been advised to bring a 
churn out with us from England, but we never had sufficient 
milk to make use of it, the calf always taking a large portion 
at each milking-time, and occasionally breaking loose, and 
depriving us of the whole day's supply. It is an Oriental 
article of faith (I believe it to be a fiction), that no cow will 
give her milk unless she sees her calf ; and if this latter die 
its skin is stuffed with straw, and laid near its mother to 
appease her. 

So our butter was made every morning, in most primitive 
fashion, the syce prowling round the courtyard and shaking 
some milk in a bottle, the soldiers on guard taking turns to 
help him. 

Nearly all the vegetables came at the same time in the 
spring, and were soon scorched up by the fierce summer sun. 
The beans and lettuces only lasted some three weeks, and 
towards the end of May there was not even spinach to be 
got. As the marrow and cucumber season had not com- 
menced, we had rice for our only vegetable, all our potatoes 
being used up, and none forthcoming until the autumnal crop 
was ripe. The homely cabbage is, in Persia, entirely a winter 
vegetable ; but during the spring we had kangra, a sort of 
white thistle, much like the chardon I have eaten in France, 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 89 

which was excellent when boiled in milk ; gatch, a big yellow, 
edible fungus, which we always stewed, and rhubarb. This 
latter, white and flavourless, was very unlike the English 
plant. It grew wild on the hills round about Kerman, and 
its stalks were banked up with earth by any one who dis- 
covered it, the Persians liking to eat it raw with salt as a 
relish. 

The fruit, like the vegetables, came in a rush, and was 
quickly over. In April the sickly tasting, small, white 
mulberries were ripe, all the villages near Kerman being 
planted with these trees, which bore abundant crops, and 
were too common to be sold as fruit. 

Then came the cherries, apricots, and peaches, of which I 
made jam, and the aluche y a sort of greengage, after which a 
long gap ensued before the melons, black mulberries, figs, 
and grapes were ready. I scarcely ever saw an apple in 
Kerman, the few pears were hard and flavourless, but the 
quinces and pomegranates were beyond reproach. I made 
a great deal of jam, and found that cherries and apricots did 
the best, although my first batch was spoilt, owing to Abu 
purloining most of the sugar. Oranges, lemons, and limes 
complete my list, the juice of the latter being bottled 
and sold all over Persia, the best abi limu coming from 
Shiraz. 

Sherbets are the great Persian drinks. I used to imagine 
that they were composed of the white fizzing powder that 
goes by that name in England, but found in reality that they 
were fruit syrups. The best, to my mind, was a mixture 
of quince and limes, most of the others being far too sweet. 
Scangebee is the universal summer beverage, a compound 
of vinegar, mast (curdled milk), mint, and sugar, which, 
after repeated straining, turns out a pale golden liquid. 
The mast is much like Devonshire junket, and the Persians 
love to chop up cucumbers in it, making a curiously indi- 
gestible dish. 

The Persian table decoration I never admired. It con- 
sisted in nipping off the heads of countless flowers and laying 
them in patterns on the cloth ; sticking melons all over with 



90 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

hollyhock blossoms, or making up a sort of maypole of 
flower-heads a foot high, which faded before it was put on 
the table. 

After a time we got to like Persian food better than our 
European cooking as interpreted by Persian cooks. Chilau 
kabob was one of the best dishes. Soft pieces of meat, 
flavoured with onions, were disposed on a big mound of 
boiled rice, and raw eggs and butter, on separate plates, were 
its accompaniments. Pillaus of boiled rice with fragments 
of meat, were of many kinds. There was the pea pillau, the 
cabbage, bean, and, best of all, the vegetable pillau, saffron, 
cinnamon, and other spices being invariably mixed with the 
rice and meat. (The great point with all these dishes was 
the perfect boiling of the rice, a peculiarly Persian art). 
Kabob-i-sikh, lamb cutlets, cooked in vine leaves, and small 
lambs, not much larger than an English hare, roasted whole 
with a stuffing of onions and walnuts, all varied our some- 
what limited menu, while, as thirteen pounds of ice were to be 
had for a penny, we indulged frequently in ice creams, and 
our drinks were kept cool in the hottest weather. 

When I had disposed of the food question for the day I 
used to ascend the steep steps to the balakhana> and make a 
survey of the rooms there. We numbered two ferashes, or 
sweepers, among our servants, and yet our apartments would 
have been left untouched from one week to another unless 
I called for these men every morning and set them to work. 
They always informed me with unblushing effrontery that 
they had done their sweeping while I was breakfasting, and 
I was obliged to resort to the device of leaving bits of paper 
and such-like trifles lying about in order to convict them of 
mendacity. The floors of the rooms were made of beaten 
mud, like the whole house, and although they were covered 
with felts, over which striped cotton floor-cloths were spread, 
yet we were never free from dust ; and a careful attention 
to the clearing out of corners was imperative, if we did not 
wish to be overrun with tarantulas or scorpions. 

I included a survey of the dining-room among my morning 
duties, as our two waiters were far too lazy to clean silver and 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 91 

knives, to refill salt, mustard, and pepper pots, and to keep 
cake and biscuits in the proper receptacles unless looked after 
sharply. Tablecloths and serviettes disappeared in an un- 
accountable manner, and I have reason to believe they were 
used as dishcloths, while all my neat English dusters vanished 
very speedily, the servants using them for their own purposes 
and seldom for my work. 

Hashim was in charge of our weekly supply of coffee, tea, 
and sugar, and he and I had many a discussion over the 
quantities required of these two latter articles, as our opinions 
on this point were widely divergent. I must, however, do 
him the justice to say that he invariably gave in with a good 
grace when he perceived that I was inexorable. 

Although he was our best servant, yet he perpetually 
played a comedy to mulct me of small articles of food. At 
first, however much sugar I gave out, the supply was never 
sufficient ; but when I forcibly remonstrated with him, he 
would produce some, telling me, with touching pathos, that 
he had bought it for us out of his own money. 

On one occasion we were using some tins of English 
machine-cut sugar, and the usual scene was enacted, but on 
this occasion our waiter did not come off well, as my brother 
at once remarked that he was not aware that this particular 
sugar was to be found in the bazaar at Kerman, as only loaves 
of sugar were sold there. Hashim saw that he had made a 
mistake, and burst into a fit of laughter, much enjoying what 
he considered a good joke, even though it was at his own 
expense! He was also entrusted to purchase our daily 
supply of bread, as the syce, being a Hindustani, was 
ignorant of the different kinds. We paid the highest price 
for bread, i.e., 4jd. for 6J lbs., of the thin brown cakes which 
go by that name in Persia, and always disliked the sort with 
which Hashim provided us, but never suspected that Kerman 
could produce anything better. 

One day one of our visitors remarked to Nasrullah Khan, 
that he wondered at the Consul liking to eat the common 
bread given out as rations to the soldiers, and which cost 
about half what we were paying ! A storm broke forthwith 



92 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

on our waiter's head, and henceforth our " staff of life " was 
of a very different quality. 

We found our Persian servants, from highest to lowest, 
afflicted with an incurable laziness, and although we had over 
a dozen men to minister to our various wants, yet three or 
four good English servants would have done all the work they 
did and a great deal more besides. They were quick-witted 
and pleasant-mannered ; but after awhile the ready answer 
of " Bally, bally, Khanum" or " Chash, chash, Khartum * (Yes, 
yes, mistress !) when I gave an order, became a weariness to 
the soul, as I got by degrees to understand that nothing 
would be accomplished unless I saw to it personally, or at 
least reiterated my commands several times. 

As our establishment, in common with all houses in 
Kerman, was unprovided with bells, the servants had to be 
called by sound of voice from the masterly inactivity of 
sleeping and smoking, in which they indulged during the 
greater part of the day, varying these occupations with in- 
cessant chattering which would have put a parrot or a 
monkey to shame, so greatly do Persians excel in this art 
of gufti gu y or gossip. In passing, it is curious to note that 
one summons an Oriental by bending the hand down instead 
of upwards, as in Europe. 

It is no exaggeration to say that to keep things up to even 
a very low European standard is an exceedingly exhausting 
task. 

Every lady in Persia with whom I discussed the " servant 
question," confessed to an intense irritation of the nerves, 
engendered by struggling with these lazy Orientals ; and 
one went so far as to say that she sometimes felt as if she 
could have killed her cook, a particularly insolent fellow, and 
then " laughed to see his corpse ! " 

It is disagreeable to feel that there is seldom much personal 
attachment between master and servant, such as is the rule 
in India ; and certainly the Persian domestic's idea of service, 
which is to purloin as much as he possibly can, is hardly 
calculated to produce such a feeling. Once I called Hashim, 
who was an adept in such practices, a thief. He was deeply 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 93 

hurt, and explained to me at considerable length that it is 
not accounted stealing to take food, as the more of his 
master's food a servant eats, so much the stronger is he to 
serve him — a novel idea ! 

All our servants had a perfect passion for soap and matches, 
expecting me to supply them with these articles whenever 
they asked for them, which was every two or three days. 
As we both felt that cleanliness ought to be encouraged, 
my brother advised me to humour them in moderation ; 
but I always had certain suspicions which were confirmed 
when M. de Rakovszky mentioned to me one morning, as a 
most remarkable circumstance, that his servant had bought 
him a piece of English household soap in the bazaar, at a 
shop where they had several chunks of the same commodity. 
He said he knew Russian or even Indian soap could be 
purchased at Kerman, but never English. To set my mind 
at rest I asked to see this piece of soap, and at once identified 
it by its lettering, as having been cut off one of my long bars, 
so next day when Abu and Hashim began their parrot-cry 
for soap I remarked, with sarcastic intonation, that doubt- 
less they could buy some of the same brand in the bazaar, 
whereat they giggled nervously. 

Later on I discovered that ten wax matches fetched a 
penny in Kerman ; and this cleared up the mystery that why, 
when so many matches were supplied, no servant could ever 
produce a single one if they were ordered to tight lamps or 
candles, and why the matchboxes in sitting and bedrooms 
were invariably rifled unless carefully hidden away. 

As soon as our servants were settled down at Kerman each 
man started a " slavey " who, as far as I could see, did the 
entire work, for which he got no money, but was fed with our 
food as payment. The cook had picked up a grimy kitchen- 
boy at Bahramabad ; Hashim and Shah Sowar had a youth 
in common, as had the ferashes ; while every groom seemed 
to have his personal hanger-on, so our staff became consider- 
ably increased. Shah Sowar had a genius for starching and 
ironing — a gift so rare in Persia that he felt raised on a 
pedestal far above the other servants, and at first used to 



94 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

pursue me all day long with specimens of his skill. Much as 
I appreciated well-got-up linen, yet it was a decided strain on 
my powers of admiration to have each collar, cuff, and shirt 
brought up in turn for approval ! He also arranged for our 
washing, charging, as I found out later, exactly double the 
proper price for each article, and then naively complaining to 
Nasrullah Khan that he did not make nearly as much on our 
wash as he had done at Tehran ! 

The proper price at Kerman was a penny for five articles, 
no difference being made for size, a handkerchief and a sheet 
being washed for the same money. This did not include 
soap, starching, or ironing, and, although cheap, I do not 
think Kerman washing deserved higher pay, as our woollen 
garments shrank to half their original size, and all linen 
articles acquired a brownish tint, besides developing an un- 
accountable amount of holes. I was quite in despair over 
my new table-linen, which, in less than a month, was com- 
pletely spoilt by the energetic, green-trousered lady who 
came every Monday to wash for us in the stream running 
past our doors ; for no European in Persia ever allows his 
" wash " to be taken into a Persian dwelling to be done. 

Unfortunately Shah Sowar was a drunkard, and soon got 
into the habit of absenting himself after every ironing day, 
only returning some five days later to see about the next 
wash. Threats and remonstrances were tried in vain, and 
on one occasion we returned from a picnic to find him 
helpless in the courtyard. Sultan Sukru was deputed to 
chastise him, and amused me next day by telling me that 
when our ironer abused him roundly, he merely answered 
him with, " Sahib ordered me to beat you, and I did ; if 
Sahib ordered me to kill you, I would do it." Which remark 
silenced the complainant, who relapsed into wordless aston- 
ishment. However, nothing had any effect on him, and he 
got worse and worse, varying his orgies with fits of abject 
penitence, in which he begged my brother to cut his tongue 
out if he offended again. Unluckily, he felt that whatever 
he did, he was secure, as we could not get on without him, 
and after about six months of misconduct he left us one 



HO USEKEEPING A T KERMAN 95 

day without warning-, telling the servants that he was going 
to start a flourishing laundry business in Kerman, and would 
certainly not return if his wages were not doubled or trebled. 
I thought of trying my prentice hand at the ironing, but 
discovered to my relief that Nasrullah Khan's servant, Haji, 
had been in the habit of assisting Shah Sowar, and now 
filled his vacant place with great credit ; and when his in- 
structor returned to us in poverty, and begged to be taken 
on again, he found that he was no longer needed. 

All our servants were much in the habit of getting ill. 
Fever was the staple complaint, but the slightest cold, the 
smallest scratch or cut would bring them to me at once for 
medical assistance ; while their eyes were in a perpetual 
state of inflammation from exposure to the sun, keeping my 
lotion-dropper well employed. I never met such a set of 
cowards. They would moan and lament over a tiny bruise, 
or an imperceptible burn, and at a touch of real illness they 
invariably gave up all hope and had visions of shrouds and 
the graveyard. Their constitutions seemed to be fashioned 
in cast-iron, and a dose suited to a horse had no power over 
them ; but it was extraordinary what an appetite they had 
for physic, swallowing the nastiest potions with a keen relish, 
and ever eager to be dosed on the smallest occasions ; they 
were singularly indifferent to kindness, and never took the 
trouble to say "thank you" for medicine or tendance, in 
marked contrast to the Indian syce who was almost over- 
powering in his gratitude. 

From first to last the ruling passion of our domestics was a 
fondness for display. This was good for us in some ways, as 
they looked on themselves as part of the Consulate, and spent 
most of their money in buying clothes to enable themselves 
to live up to what they imagined was an exalted position. 
Persians have a proverb to the effect that no one knows what 
a man eats, but that his clothes are apparent to every eye, 
and another saying as to the advisability of being well dressed 
is, " New sleeves get a good dinner." The origin of this is, that 
a certain mollah went in shabby attire to the house of a rich 
man, who was dispensing hospitality with a free hand during 



96 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the month of Moharrum, but the servants, imagining that he 
was a beggar, would not admit him, and he had to go away 
hungry. However, he managed to beg or buy a new garment, 
and the next night craved for admittance again, was ushered 
in with great honour and was placed at the head of the table. 
He could not get over his surprise at this treatment, and 
kept on saying that he was the same man who was turned 
away the night before, but that evidently his new sleeves 
had procured this excellent repast for him, and his remark 
has passed into a proverb. 

Our servants were also very good in cleaning up the whole 
establishment if a visitor were expected, and would perform 
prodigies in the way of cooking and waiting on such occa- 
sions, as they said it would never do to let people think that 
our retainers were slacker or less skilful than other domestics ; 
and they had a curious horror of the Consulate getting a bad 
name in the bazaars. 

However, this tashakhus, or love of show, had its evil side. 
Not content with hiring underlings to do most of their work, 
our men one and all sported murderous-looking knives, and 
ruffled it among the Kermanis, as their aim was to show 
that they were greater swells than the retainers of the 
Governor. 

Naturally their habit of forcing every one to give way to 
them when they took their walks abroad, led to altercations, 
and on one occasion a disgraceful row ensued, which had to 
be taken notice of, as four of them drew their daggers on the 
populace when in a state of intoxication. In Persia, to be 
tipsy in public, is looked upon as a great offence, as drinking 
is strictly prohibited by the Mahommedan religion. Our 
servants were accordingly offered the choice of being beaten 
at the Consulate or at the Governor's Palace, and having 
chosen the former alternative, punishment was meted out to 
them by Nasrullah Khan, who took a keen interest in the 
proceedings, and gave me an account of the whole affair 
afterwards. He arranged that any servant who had a grudge 
against any other, was to be given the rod to be used on his 
enemy! For example, Akbar was the son of the public 



HO USEKEEPING A T HERMAN 97 

executioner of Kerman, and, as such, was said by every one 
to possess a " black heart." His father had been forced, in 
the course of his duty, to despatch our second sweeper's 
brother, and Nasrullah Khan, therefore, told off this servant 
to beat Akbar, the poor boy calling out that the man was 
thus avenging his brother's death ! The little syce, who was 
not implicated in the business, wept the whole time, and 
sobbed violently when Nasrullah Khan offered him the stick 
as a treat, in case he had any insult to avenge ; while Hashim, 
also innocent, acted the part of intercessor, urging me to get 
my brother to let the sinners off their deserts. 

The cook, who was the ringleader, got off the best, as he 
called out that he was a seyid, or descendant of the Prophet, 
and so worked upon the feelings of all, that he was beaten 
very lightly. In Persia it is the custom to give servants a 
khelat, or present, after a beating. A new coat or a few 
krans is generally the reward of misconduct, completely 
destroying the moral effect of the punishment ; but our 
servants knew my brother too well, to dare to ask for the 
customary gift. 

Next to the Indian syce, the soldiers ranked highest in 
my estimation. Our guard of six men, with turkey-twill 
trousers, navy blue coats with scarlet shoulder-straps, and 
queer shaped helmets with a flap in front, were the cheeriest 
and most willing fellows it has been my lot to meet. 

They had a ration of bread, and we gave them the usual 
pay of igrd. daily, and heard that because they got this 
meagre pittance they were forced to square their officer with 
a considerable douceur for the privilege of guarding the 
Consulate, as otherwise he would have changed them at once 
for what they considered a lucrative post ! 

The Persian soldier is a soldier for life, but his lot is by no 
means as hard as one might think. Each village is forced to 
give its quota of men to serve in the ranks, but the soldier's 
leave is of long duration, and he gets plenty of time to go 
home, cultivate his land, if he has any, and help in with the 
crops. Moreover, by virtue of being in the army, he has a 
high position, and in all towns has the office of money-lender 



98 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

and exchanger, sitting by a table of copper money, and 
calling out his wares with the well-known cry of poul-isir 
(black money). Persian soldiers on the march are a curious 
sight, as each man has a minute donkey which he loads with 
his bedding and food, strapping his rifle on somehow. These 
little steeds trot along at a surprising pace, even carrying 
their owners at intervals, and when halting at villages en 
route they are let loose to graze in the standing crops of 
barley. 

As a rule the soldiers are fine, well-made men — a great 
contrast to their officers, who, in common with the great 
majority of the upper classes, are of poor physique. If such 
a thing as patriotism were known in Persia they would 
probably form a splendid army, but as it is the officers seem 
merely to be interested in getting what money they can out 
of their men, often leaving them to be officered by a set of 
ferashes, or common servants. 

It was surprising to see the interest that the Persian 
gentry took in our servants. If a visitor called, and accom- 
panied us on a ride, he would invariably drop behind us after 
awhile to have a talk with the grooms, and if he stayed to 
a meal with us, he would ask after Hashim's health with 
effusion, and always exchange a few words with him. This 
kindly concern as to our domestics was constantly shown if 
any of them were dismissed. The culprit would at once 
betake himself to the guest he thought we liked the best, 
and beseech him to intercede for him. His request was 
always promptly granted, and soon a caller would come to 
the Consulate to know whether we would not take back 
so-and-so. As no Persian ever seemed to have the least 
idea of what we understand by justice, they could not com- 
prehend that we would not re-engage a thief or a drunkard 
because they asked us to do so ; and they used to inquire 
of Nasrullah Khan as to whether it was the Sahib, or the 
Kkanum y or he himself who had " taken a dislike " to the 
servant in question! 

The tashakhus, inherent in the whole nation, urged them 
to these efforts on behalf of our domestics, for, if their inter- 



HO USE KEEPING A T KERMAN 99 

cession were successful, the reinstalled servant would treat 
them with especial deference and consideration when they 
came to the Consulate, and would also, doubtless, be able to 
satisfy the insatiable curiosity which they had regarding us 
and our doings. 

They all imagined, I fancy, that the particularly simple 
life we led was merely a blind to cover deep designs or 
extraordinary doings on our part, and therefore assiduously 
cultivated our servants so as to get glimpses of light thrown 
on our inexplicable European characters. 



CHAPTER VIII 

KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 

WHEN the traveller looks back on the past history 
of Persia, and remembers what a mighty kingdom 
it was, and how many powerful rulers it counted among its 
tributaries, he is surprised not to come across more frequent 
relics of its departed grandeur. Tehran, the capital, is, to all 
intents and purposes, quite modern; there is but little to 
admire in Kasvin, the old royal city, while I am told that 
even in Isfahan it is difficult to conjure up from the buildings 
that remain a clear picture of its magnificence and splendour 
in the days when Shah Abbas held his court there. Shiraz, 
according to most travellers, is a decided disappointment, 
save perchance to ardent students of Hafiz and Sadi, and 
is probably more visited on account of its proximity to 
the beautiful ruins of Persepolis than for its own merits. 
So Persia is by no means a country to recommend itself 
to the ordinary globe-trotter, who is insatiable in the matter 
of " sights," and who would hardly consider the ruinous cities 
of Koom and Kashan worth a visit, when he could only 
glance at mosques from a safe distance, and would never 
be allowed to enter them and gaze at their treasures of 
old carpets and embroideries. 

The contrast between Persia and India in this way is very 
marked. Throughout the latter country every town of any 
note has fine temples, palaces, and shrines, many erected by 
Persian architects, or under the influence of Persian taste, 
notably the Wazir-i-Khan Mosque at Lahore. In India 
Persian art is copied, Persian literature studied, and Persian 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS loi 

at the present day is spoken in polite circles, as many nations 
speak French. And yet, how comes it that the disciple has 
accomplished so much more than the master? A plausible 
answer to the question is in the successive floods of invaders 
who have swept over the country, pillaging and destroying. 
But, on the other hand, has not India been the battle-ground 
of Asia for centuries ? And was not Nadir Shah one of the 
most notorious of her invaders, enriching the Persian treasury 
with untold wealth after his famous sack of Delhi in the 
eighteenth century? 

Perhaps the real reason may be that Persia was always 
an essentially poor country, with but few internal sources 
of wealth. Also the national predilection for mud as a 
building material is not conducive to a fine or enduring 
architecture, however beautiful may be the tiles with which 
it is covered. 

Whether I am right or wrong in these conjectures, it is 
certain there are few traces left of a civilisation once world- 
renowned. 

I cannot refrain from giving a short outline of the history 
of Persia, as this kingdom has such a grand past, and even 
now, nearly 2,500 years since the accession of Cyrus, it is still 
existing, while so many great monarchies have arisen and 
fallen into ruins. 

Leaving its rich legendary history, which is the subject of 
Firdusi's fine epic poem the " Shah Nameh" I will commence 
with Cyrus the Great, who descended with his hardy Persians 
upon the civilised Medes, and became the founder of the great 
Achaemenian line. 

Under Darius I. the empire reached to the Indus, and 
included Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the whole of Asia 
Minor ; and yet the armies of this great king and those of his 
successor hurled themselves in vain against the insignificant 
kingdom of Greece. 

The last of this line, a Darius, was conquered by Alexander 
the Great, upon whose death Persia lapsed into anarchy under 
the rule of his generals, until the warlike Parthians, a kindred 
race to the Persians, possessed themselves of the land. 



102 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

This new monarchy, which lasted for four hundred years, 
successfully checked the advance of the Romans eastward, 
defeating their armies under Crassus and Mark Antony, and 
later on repulsing the legions of Trajan and Macrinus. 

On the decline of the Parthian power, Ardeshir, one of the 
old Persian line, founded the powerful Sassanian dynasty in 
227. He defeated the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, 
his immediate successor forcing Valentinian's army to sur- 
render, and keeping the hapless emperor a prisoner until his 
death; while Sapor II. crushed the legions of Constantine, 
conquered Julian in a battle in which the emperor lost his 
life, and dictated ignominious terms to Jovian. 

The great Belisarius was sent in vain against Persia, and 
his royal master Justinian was forced to pay tribute to 
Chosroes I., the second monarch of that name ousting the 
Romans from Asia and Africa, and only being restrained 
from seizing Constantinople by the despairing efforts of the 
Emperor Heraclius. 

When the Arabs invaded Persia, the conquered nation, 
after awhile, became Shiahs, and turned against their 
Sunni masters, forming a national dynasty, the greatest 
ruler being Shah Abbas. 

Upon his death the kingdom fell more or less into anarchy, 
until Agha Muhammed Khan succeeded in crushing the Zend 
dynasty and in 1794 founded the Kajar line, which is on the 
throne of Persia at the present day. 

Kerman, the capital of the ancient province of Caramania, 
was second only in importance to Isfahan, as once the trade 
of Europe flowed through it on its way to the Persian Gulf. 
The first mention we have of it is in Herodotus, who speaks 
of Caramania as one of the Satrapies ; and Alexander and 
his army marched through the province on their way 
home from India. In time it became part of the Parthian 
empire, until Ardeshir, well known in local legend, captured 
Kerman and founded the Sassanian dynasty, and it was 
to Kerman that Yezdigird III., the last of the Sassanian 
monarchs, is supposed to have fled, when the Arabs, under 
Omar, conquered Persia. Kerman, in the Middle Ages, was 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 103 

actually a Nestorian See, part of that great missionary Church 
which had schools of divinity and philosophy throughout 
Asia during the fourteenth century, and of which the so- 
called Syrian Church is the last remnant. Perhaps, however, 
one of the most interesting facts about it is its connection with 
the great Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, who visited the city 
twice at the end of the thirteenth century. 

Few places have suffered more at the hands of invaders. 
Kerman has been sacked by Omar, Jenghiz Khan, Timur, the 
Afghans, and Nadir Shah in turn, while in 1794 the savage 
Agha Muhammed Khan, founder of the present Kajar 
dynasty, almost entirely demolished the city. Lutf AH 
Khan, the last of the Zend dynasty, held out here against 
the fierce besieger with great gallantry, and sustained a severe 
siege, two-thirds of his troops dying of privation, until the 
city was betrayed by treachery into the hands of the enemy, 
and its brave prince had perforce to make his escape to Bam. 
Agha Muhammed Khan then gave over Kerman to his 
soldiery, who worked their will on its hapless inhabitants ; 
nor, it is said, would he withdraw his troops until he had 
received a gift of 20,000 pairs of human eyes! It is not 
surprising to hear that the city never recovered from this 
crushing blow, and among Persian towns it is a byword 
at the present day for its poverty and the number of its 
beggars. 

Kerman, as we knew it, was rebuilt on a small scale in the 
reign of Fath Ali Shah, and is about a quarter the size of the 
old town. It is enclosed by a high mud wall, and is sur- 
rounded by a deep moat, at one end being the castellated 
citadel, the residence of the governor for the time being. 

I am unable to give any personal account of the interior of 
the city, as, during the whole of my stay close to it, I did not 
go inside its walls, my brother fearing I might be mobbed by 
the populace who had never seen an Englishwoman before. 
However, he and every one else assured me that there was 
absolutely nothing to be seen, save tumble-down mud houses, 
dirty bazaars, and a profusion of beggars, so that I do not 
think I missed much. 



104 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

The one really old building left in the town is the Gumbaz- 
z-Subs, or Green Mosque, built before the time of Marco Polo's 
two visits to the city, the date of 1242 being visible in an 
inscription in the interior, and its blue-tiled cupola, of which 
half was in ruins, could be seen for several miles across the 
plain. It was built in honour of Torkhun Khatun, a strong- 
minded princess, who married two governors of Kerman, and, 
when her brother succeeded them, killed him ; but in her turn 
she was murdered by her sister-in-law. 

Its partial destruction is owing to a governor who imagined 
that buried treasure was concealed beneath its walls, and 
pulled down half the mosque in the vain attempt to find it. 

Perhaps the oldest buildings in or near Kerman are the two 
ruined fortresses, standing on steep limestone spurs about half 
a mile to the south-east of the new city. They are attributed 
to Ardeshir, and are built of sun-dried mud bricks, so exactly 
the colour of the rocks that, at a little distance, it is difficult 
to tell which is natural and which artificial. We explored 
them over and over again, trying to find out for what purpose 
the masses of ruined buildings which crowded the two hills 
were originally intended — a difficult task in which we were by 
no means successful. Nor could we hit upon the subterranean 
passage which tradition affirmed connected the larger citadel 
with the town. 

One of the rocky pinnacles had been made into a small 
platform, approached by a flight of steps cut in the limestone, 
and was probably the nuggelkhana, or spot from which bugle 
or drum would summon the garrison to arms or prayer. 

The Persians, however, insisted that it was the Tarpeian 
rock of the ancient city, and that from it all criminals were 
hurled, although a fall off it would have been no serious 
matter, and there were other spurs far better adapted for 
such a purpose. 

The ruins of old Kerman lie between these two fortresses, 
and from the mud walls, now fast crumbling into their original 
dust, we obtained may fine reflet metalliqtie tiles, which indi- 
cate the scale on which the town was built when in its prime. 

Firdusi in the " Shah Nameh" expatiates on a tradition 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 105 

concerning a princess who founded Kerman and gave it 
its name, from the fact of her finding a kirm, or worm, in 
the apple that she was eating on the site of the future town. 

Mr. Stack, in his " Six Months in Persia," tells a legend 
of another princess, the daughter of Ardishir, who, rather 
than marry an objectionable suitor, shut herself up in the 
larger fortress, and was vainly besieged by her irate father for 
twelve years. At last a dervish passing through Kerman 
counselled the king to cut off the kanat supplying water 
to the fort, and this action brought about the immediate 
surrender of the rebellious princess. 

From our sitting-room windows we could see these two 
old fortresses, and the older and larger was called the 
Kalah-i-Duktar, or Maiden Fort, a name which, perhaps, 
has some connection with Ardeshir's daughter, or with the 
local legend I am about to narrate. When the tide of 
Moslem invasion flooded Persia, the prosperous city of 
Kerman was not exempt from the common fate, although it 
seemed at one time as if it would repel the enemy from its 
walls, as its defenders withdrew themselves into their im- 
pregnable citadel. The chief and his followers had provi- 
sioned the place for a long siege, and there was, moreover, a 
a deep well within its walls and a secret subterranean passage 
by which its defenders could leave it at will. All would 
probably have gone well if the Gabre chieftain had not had 
a most beautiful daughter, who was to him as the very apple 
of his eye. He had ever loaded her with silks and jewels, 
and, in the days before invasion had been dreamt of, had 
laid out for her a lovely rose-garden on a sunny plain below 
the fortress. She was so beloved and trusted by one and all, 
that she could come and go as she would, and had plenty of 
opportunities of watching the movements of the besiegers. 
Again and again she had noted the bravery of the young 
Arab general, who led his men persistently to the attack, and 
exposed his own person recklessly to the shower of arrows 
and missiles launched incessantly from the castle walls. Day 
after day she gazed upon him, falling ever deeper and deeper 
in love with the violent abandon of an Eastern woman. 



106 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

and after awhile she managed to communicate with him. 
By a trusty messenger she let him understand that she would 
give up everything for him, would act the traitress and let 
the enemies of her land into the castle through the secret 
entrance if he would promise to marry her. 

He consented readily enough, and one dark, moonless 
night the maiden opened that hidden door, and an awful 
massacre ensued, in which the fire-worshippers were ruth- 
lessly exterminated, and the standard of the Prophet was 
planted on the topmost summit of the pile. The general 
had given careful orders to his soldiery to see that no harm 
came to the girl, and when the assault was over she was 
brought into his presence. He was fairly astounded at her 
loveliness, but not being able to find a reason for her trea- 
chery, he asked her whether her father had been very cruel 
to her, that she had thus betrayed him. She replied that, 
on the contrary, he had cherished her with a never-failing 
tenderness and that her slightest wish had been as a law to 
him. At this glimpse of her hard heart the young chieftain's 
love was turned into loathing. He gave orders for her to be 
tied to a wild horse, which his cavalry pursued with savage 
shouts across the plain, and thus the Tarpeia of Kerman 
perished miserably. 

Kerman lies on the great oblong plain of Rafsinjan, some 
eighty miles in length, and stretching northwards beyond 
Bahramabad. Near the town different tracts are brought 
into cultivation in alternate years, and oxen plough up the 
hard soil for crops of barley, opium, castor-oil, melons, and 
cotton, donkeys bringing panniers full of the crumbled mud- 
walls of the old city to be spread on the ground as manure. 

Beyond this lie many miles of put, or solidified mud, and 
it was here that we usually went for our long gallops across 
country. For the most part the only vegetation is a sort of 
vetch, but a little grass grows near the few streams, and it 
was in these favoured spots that we came across the flocks of 
sheep and goats, from whose marvellously fine fleeces the 
famous carpets and shawls of Kerman are made. It is said 
that there is no wool in the world to equal it, and although 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 107 

Fath Ali Shah tried to introduce Kerman sheep into other 
parts of Persia, the experiment resulted in failure, owing, 
Persians say, to lack of some special quality in the water. 

And it is the extremely scanty supply of this water that 
makes Kerman almost a desert Old chronicles speak of 
the hundreds of wells that once contributed to make the 
surrounding country one of the most fertile in Persia, but 
now, alas, they are all choked up and have completely dis- 
appeared, while a long chain of kanats brings a stream of 
water from the hills to the city, a stream frequented by all 
the washerwomen of the place before it enters the gates. 

We ourselves obtained our water from the Sar-i-Assia 
rivulet, some two miles from our house, sending a man on a 
mule daily to fill up one of our wooden water-barrels, a 
mode of conveyance preferable to the Persian mushk, or skin 
bag, which frequently discolours the liquid, and usually lends 
it a faint, disagreeable smell and taste. 

Much nearer home was another spring, celebrated in local 
tradition as having been made to burst out of the hard rock 
at a blow from the hand of Ali. Upon the steep side of a 
black mountain the words Ya Ali were painted in huge, white 
Persian characters, and below them the merest trickle of 
water exuded, making one feel that the saint, while about it, 
might have done the thing more handsomely. All day long 
women climb up to this spot to collect the slowly dripping 
water from the sacred stream, and to hang tallow-dips from 
the branches of the one small tree growing by it, which votive 
offerings will ensure to them the joys of motherhood, and 
must be a small food-supply for the jackals during their 
nightly prowls. Sick women, on the other hand, make their 
pilgrimage to a spur of the hills on which stand the old 
fortresses, and deposit bread, meat, sugar, and fruit in a small 
mud room. If on their return their offerings are eaten, they 
believe that the Queen of the Fairies has taken pity on them, 
and will cure them of their complaints. 

As is usual in Persian cities, Kerman is built upon a plain, 
and has many ranges of hills in its near vicinity. To the 
south towers the splendid mass of Jupa, the great feature of 



io8 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the landscape, its picturesque peaks nearly always tipped with 
snow, and beyond it rise the higher Lalazar Range and Kuh-i- 
Hazar's remarkable pyramidal-shaped peak, while the lofty 
pink plateau of Kupayeh forms a bulwark to the north-east 
against the rolling sands of the great desert on the edge 
of which Kerman stands. 

The district towards the Kupayeh Range was one of the 
most desolate in the neighbourhood. Not a sign of any 
vegetation, never a trace of habitation, only dunes of shifting 
sand and frowning mountains. It was here that I saw one of 
the few wolves that I came across in Persia, louping along, 
apparently in quite a leisurely manner, although when we 
urged our horses and galloped after it, we found it was 
impossible to get up with it, try as we might. This waste 
was also enlivened by the jerboa, called by the Persians the 
" two-pawed mouse," which hops about on its hind-legs, like 
a tiny kangaroo, and appears such a lively little creature that 
we always wanted to have one for a pet to brighten the house 
with its agile movements. 

Here in this dreary district are the towers on which the 
Parsees expose their dead, built invariably on abruptly rising 
hills. One was of oblong shape, a buttressed wall with a small 
door at one end, entirely surrounding the summit of the hill, 
thus rendering any observation of what lay inside quite 
impossible. The newer one was built on a rocky spur, facing 
the one I have described, and was merely a large round tower 
with an iron door half-way up its side ; and not far from these 
two dakmes lay a third " Tower of Silence," now falling into 
ruins. Near the boulder-paved causeway, along which the 
corpses were carried out from the city, was a two-storied mud 
building, where banquets for the spirits of the departed were 
deposited. The survivors were wont to lay the food out 
elegantly in the balakhana, and return later to see whether it 
were devoured or not, as, just after death, the disembodied 
spirit is supposed to be much in need of nourishment. 

To the east of our house lay a small, hill-encircled plain, 
thickly covered with ruined dwellings, many still containing 
great portions of their original mosaic flooring, and having 




DAKME, OR PARSEE TOWER, WHERE DEAD ARE EXPOSED. 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 109 

elaborate friezes of gutch, or plaster-work, ornamenting 
their mud walls. Amidst this suburb rose a small domed 
building, called Jubal-i-Sang (Mount of Stone), composed of 
big, irregularly shaped stones set in mortar, its walls being of 
great thickness. It reminded me somewhat of the Pantheon, 
as it had a large aperture in its domed roof, which was 
covered with beautiful tiles some years ago ; but these, how- 
ever, had all been removed by the Mayor of Kerman to 
decorate his own house. This building, with its Arab arches, 
was always somewhat of an architectural puzzle to our friend 
M. de Rakovszky, and the inscription upon it, " I was built 
between two Paradises " (Persian for gardens), gave no clue 
to the date of its construction, beyond that it must have 
been in the palmy days of the city, when Kerman was 
celebrated for its gardens, which supplied attar of roses 
to half the civilised world. 

Some ten days after our arrival at Kerman we were strolling 
about with M. de Rakovszky at the foot of the old fortresses, 
and were examining some of the mud ruins which are sup- 
posed by the Persians to be haunted by j inns, afreets, and 
deeves (the latter being cat-headed, white-skinned men with 
horns, having claws on their hands and feet), when our 
guest picked up a pretty piece of tile, and said that it was 
reflet me'tallique. At Tehran I had been shown a tiny cup 
and saucer of this ancient ware, but so ugly were they in 
form and colouring that I felt no desire to possess any speci- 
mens myself. However, this was very different — a brown 
design shot with gold on a pure white ground, a thing 
pleasing to the eye even of the Philistine. 

The making of this reflet, with its peculiar glaze, is a lost 
art, and it is over six hundred years since any of the ware 
has been manufactured. Blue, brown, red, and purple were 
the colours principally employed in these tiles, which 
have a wonderful metallic iridescence when turned to the 
light. 

Our imaginations were greatly fired at the sight of count- 
less fragments of this beautiful ware lying around us, and when 
the Kermanis understood that we wished to buy tiles, plenty 



no THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

of them, although usually, alas, in a broken condition, were 
brought to the Consulate. 

We obtained some pieces of a kind of frieze with a design 
in golden brown, relieved by bands of turquoise blue. Some 
of the tiles had raised Kufic characters on them, and one was 
inscribed with the words " Hail, Omar ! " in curious contrast 
to the way in which this Khalif is now hated by all orthodox 
Persians. Bits of lattice-work made of pottery, and dainty tur- 
quoise blue tiles, with birds or rabbits traced on them in gold, 
might once have formed part of the palace anderoon, while 
some very handsome, much broken, pieces, with the word 
"Allah," evidently once belonged to the mosque. In these 
latter the letters were of a deep purple, and were raised from 
the white, brown traced ground, as were also the large rich blue 
leaves, and Mr. Reade, of the British Museum, considers that 
these fragments are perhaps some of the best reflet metallique 
ever brought to England. 

Besides the tiles we got quantities of broken porcelain and 
pottery, the former evidently of Chinese origin, and the latter, 
as a rule, a vivid green or yellow. Moreover, bits of a curious 
sage-green pottery were scattered about, very fine, and with a 
beautiful glaze on both sides. This, I have been told, is a sure 
sign of Arab occupation, and is met with wherever Arabs 
have been. Some of the ware had classic designs, notably 
the Greek " key " pattern upon it in black or indigo. 

So keen were we at this time on the subject of these tiles, 
that when my brother bought a new horse, the very lightest 
chestnut I have ever seen, we called him " Reflet," because in 
the sunlight his silky coat had a wonderful gold and red 
lustre. The servants soon caught the name, changing it, 
however, to " Leflef," a word applied to boys who eat greedily 
and in a hurry. As " Reflet " was invariably half-mad with 
eagerness just before feeding-time, and " set to " with tremen- 
dous gusto directly he was served, both names were singularly 
appropriate. 

Mosaic was found everywhere, often in beautiful patterns, 
in which blue, black, white, and soft fawn colours figured. It 
reminded us of the description of Ahasuerus's palace at 



HERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS in 

Shushan, where the people feasted in the courtyard "upon 
a pavement of red and blue and white and black marble " 
(Esther i. 6). 

There was also a great deal of plaster-work, with bold 
designs of white flowers and leaves let into a buff ground- 
work, which had a very pleasing effect. 

One night we walked up to the summit of the big fortress 
in the moonlight, and wandered among the crumbling mud 
walls, the old brick archways, and ruined chambers, wonder- 
ing what treasures of mosaic, of tiles, and of bronzes might 
not be hidden beneath the unpromising mounds of earth, 
strewn with many a human bone, gleaming white in the 
moon's rays. Kerman lay mapped out below us in the soft 
light which glorified its squalid mud houses, its ruined blue 
domes, and general air of decay, and the silence was intense, 
broken only by the curious groaning in the distance of a 
Persian water-wheel, worked by a buffalo. All at once we 
noticed two or three jackals, stealing away down the hillside 
more like phantoms than creatures of flesh and blood, and 
in another second the first gave tongue, followed by another 
and another, till the garden beneath us rang with heartrend- 
ing yells, causing M. de Rakovszky to say that their cries 
reminded him of a soul in the grasp of a despair so deep, so 
hopeless, that it could only murmur in the absence of all stay, 
all support, " Cestfini ! " 

This nocturnal visit of ours to the fortress caused much 
remark in the town, and we were told that our guest had the 
unusual power, by means of his camera, of being able to see 
thirty feet deep down into the earth, thus anticipating the 
Rontgen Rays, darkness being specially favourable to the 
operation. On this particular night it was affirmed that he 
had seen a golden vessel, buried far below his feet, and having 
dug it up, it was found to be filled with valuable coins ! 
After this the whole of Kerman made up its mind that we 
were after treasure, and I was informed that the interest we 
excited was great. 

Very little was found in the fortresses beyond mosaic 
floors, a curious corroded pipe as big as a drain-pipe, some 



ii2 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

coins, tiny agate and cornelian beads, and bits of cotton 
manuscript paper, one recording a complaint of looting in 
the Jabal Bariz district, dated some six hundred years ago. 
After awhile somewhat curious things were brought for sale, 
among which a small Queen Victoria medal and a torn 
sheet of one of my brother's Pioneer newspapers were offered, 
both, according to their would-be salesman, having been dug 
out of the fortress at a great depth below the earth ; while 
we were frequently offered commonplace modern tiles, 
evidently fetched from the mosques in the town. 

One day we came across the Necropolis of old Kerman. 
The graves reminded us a little of the Catacombs, with a 
difference, as long, square niches were dug out of a mud mass, 
just the length of the corpse, which was slipped in feet fore- 
most, the entrance being sealed up with a tile. The vaulted 
roofs were of tiles, set at an acute angle, and the niches were 
in rows, one above the other, in the thick sand walls, which 
seem to have been originally built round a square. 

Our ferash pulled away some of the tiles, and in one grave 
there was a skeleton, its skull covered with thick, short, 
brown hair. My brother wanted to keep this, as it might 
have thrown light upon these early inhabitants of Kerman, 
but the relic fell to bits when touched. Curious low chambers 
roofed with rough plaster-work opened out on to the square, 
and may once have been inhabited by those whose duty 
it was to bury the dead. 

One day we lunched early and rode out to see the ruins of 
Dugiyanus, of which we had heard a great report as being 
extensive and full of relics of bygone splendour. They lay 
across the desert to the south-west of Kerman, and we had to 
pass round the city on our way to them, and found a crowd 
assembled at the big gate of the town, listening to a profes- 
sional story-teller, who was reciting poems to his audience, 
with violent gesticulations. My horse shied violently at him, 
and nearly precipitated himself and his mistress into the deep, 
empty moat surrounding the city ; and when we had recovered 
ourselves Nasrullah Khan drew a moral by telling me that 
most Persians, especially ladies, make a point of giving alms 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 113 

to the first beggar they meet when riding out. This pious 
deed ensures them against accident, and even if they nearly 
come to grief they feel that their almsgiving has enabled 
them to escape all evil consequences. We had much trouble 
in finding the ruined city of which we were in quest, as all that 
remained of it was a bit of mud wall and the ruins of a house 
with the long, narrow Arabic arch, dating probably from the 
first century of the Hejreh. It seemed a queer site for a 
town, among all these sand-heaps, ribbed and furrowed with 
the wind and perpetually shifting their position ; but amid 
the desolation a chain of villages was dotted across the plain, 
and we rested in the garden of one of them, a sort of fruit- 
orchard with a stream running through it, and drank tea with 
the fine Jupa Range rising in front of us. Then we rode home 
through part of the ruins of old Kerman, wandering along 
the narrow, deserted streets and admiring the pretty honey- 
comb patterned arches of doors and window-frames, while 
long rays of the setting sun gilded the ruins of Ardeshir's 
fortress, lighting up fragments of masonry and giving them 
the weird effect seen in pictures of those great granite figures 
which eternally gaze across the Egyptian desert. 

Here and there in the mountain range east of us were 
several caves, and we explored these in due course. The most 
interesting was a very large one, half-way up the side of the 
hill, which we visited, furnished with candles, and ferreted 
about in its recesses. 

M. de Rakovszky was convinced that prehistoric Troglo- 
dytes had inhabited it, and pointed out the traces of pre- 
historic smoke on its roof. In one part was a large mass 
of boulders, and among these we hunted for the prehistoric 
bones and arrow-heads which we made no doubt were lying 
hidden there. Our guest was anxious that we should set 
men to work to dig up the floor, hard as concrete, but we so 
infinitely preferred reflet to relics of cave-dwellers that we 
never followed his suggestion. 

During our stay at Kerman curios were brought to us for 
sale from time to time, and we purchased several great 
pottery jars, also various low, square pottery spice-boxes 

9 



ii4 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

divided into partitions for different condiments and having 
lids, and a queer hollowed stone used by the Gabres for 
pouring water over the feet of the deceased. It is some- 
what difficult to buy in Persia, as the seller invariably puts 
an extortionate price on his wares, and will never conclude 
a bargain outright, but wastes much time, which certainly is 
of no value to him, by coming daily to reduce his demands, 
until he finally descends to the sum offered by the purchaser 
at the commencement. 

This account of Kerman would be incomplete without 
mentioning its carpets, felts, and shawls, which are famous 
throughout Asia. 

The felts, or numads^ are made of wool with pretty 
coloured designs on buff or brown grounds, and the shawls, 
resembling those of Cashmere, are in great request for 
kkelats, or robes of honour, which are given by the Shah 
or by men of high rank to those to whom they wish to 
show signal favour. They are also made into inner coats, 
and worn by most Persians of position. 

The Kerman carpets are of wonderfully fine texture, 
having the pattern clearly indicated on the reverse side, 
and are coloured with exquisite vegetable dyes. Like most 
Oriental carpets, they become handsomer after years of use, 
their colours blending into a mellow richness and subdued 
brightness. As a rule they are only made in small sizes, 
unless specially ordered, and are by no means cheap. We 
paid £8 for several of our carpets, not much larger than rugs, 
that being the cost price in Kerman. Birds, beasts, and even 
human figures are introduced into these carpets, and as this 
is entirely contrary to the tenets of Mohammedanism, it 
shows that the Kerman patterns are of great antiquity, and 
are prior to the Arab invasion of Persia. 

A quantity of carpets are made by the Ilyats y or nomad 
tribes in the province of Kerman. These are all of coarse 
texture, and usually the pattern is the favourite shawl one 
on a dark indigo ground. 

Unfortunately, the modern Persian affects designs which 
to the European eye are utterly devoid of taste. One Kerman 



KERMAN AND ITS ENVIRONS 115 

acquaintance showed me with much pride his choicest carpet, 
which reminded me of a nursery wall-paper. It was many- 
feet in extent, and was adorned with a series of designs, such 
as an English dairymaid milking a cow, a soldier embracing 
his ladylove, a group of Indians in front of their wigwam, and 
so on, each picture repeated three times, the colours being 
of the crudest. 

Naturally I could not live in a Mohammedan country with- 
out becoming interested in its religion, and as previous to 
my stay in Persia my ideas of Mohammed had been of the 
haziest, perhaps some of my readers are in the same condition, 
and may welcome a few facts about the rise of Islamism. 

Mohammed was born at Mecca A.D. 570, of noble but im- 
poverished Arab parents, and when he grew up became camel-, 
driver to the rich widow Khadija, whom he afterwards 
married. At this time his country was steeped in the grossest 
idolatry, infanticide, and many corrupt practices being rife. It 
was not until his fortieth year that the Prophet began to 
preach his mission, and for twelve long years, amid persecu- 
tion and insult, he never faltered in proclaiming that there was 
but one God, and that the countless idols worshipped by his 
fellow-countrymen were but senseless blocks of wood or stone. 
Mecca, his native city, persisted in rejecting him, and in A.D. 622 
he and his adherents fled to Medina, where he was received 
with unbounded enthusiasm. This flight of the Prophet, 
known as the Hejreh (from which the Mohammedan world 
counts its years, as we do from Christ's birth) marked the 
turning-point in his career. Eight years later he returned as 
a conqueror to Mecca, and henceforth war became a religious 
act, the followers of Mohammed feeling that their mission was 
to convert the world by means of the sword ; the fruits of this 
doctrine being that at the present day one-sixth of the whole 
human race is Mussulman. 

" Islamism " means " submission to the will of God," and 
rules to guide the Faithful were laid down in the Koran (the 
book), which consists of a series of revelations supposed to be 
made to the Prophet, chiefly by the Angel Gabriel. The 
four principal rules are — prayer five times daily, almsgiving, 



n6 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

fasting, and the going on pilgrimages. With all his faults, 
Mohammed was one of the greatest of religious, moral, and 
political reformers, and although Islamism cannot be men- 
tioned in the same breath with Christianity, yet it is 
eminently suited to the East. As a writer has observed, " It 
is the religion of the shepherd and the nomad, of the burning 
desert and the boundless steppe," and it appears to be able to 
lay hold of and elevate savage races which Christianity seems 
powerless to touch. 

In Persia, however, it has grafted itself upon a light-hearted, 
irreligious race, which sets at nought many of the observances 
enjoined by the Koran, and are moreover Shiahs. 

The Mohammedan world is divided into the two great sects 
pf the Sunnis and the Shiahs. The former are the orthodox, 
and consider that the first four Khalifs* who succeeded the 
Prophet, were not greatly inferior to him. The latter, on the 
other hand, hold that Abu Bakr, Omar and Othmar, the first 
three Khalifs y were all usurpers, and that only AH and the 
eleven Imams succeeding him were the true rulers of Islam 
after the Prophet. The Shiahs, who are confined to Persia, 
consider Ali as almost divine, execrate Omar, the conqueror 
of Persia, and often ignore the pilgrimage to Mecca, turning 
their steps instead to Ali's shrine at Kufa or to that of his 
son Hussein at Kerbelah; and the Persian Passion Play, 
performed yearly to commemorate Hussein's martyrdom, 
further widens the gulf between Shiah and Sunni. 



CHAPTER IX 

OLLA PODRIDA 

AS I have mentioned in a previous chapter, we reached 
Kerman ten days after Noruz y the Persian New Year, 
which falls on March 21st. This day is always kept as a great 
festival, with much feasting, presents being exchanged and 
tables spread with lighted candles, springing barley, and 
every kind of fruit, cake, or sweetmeat, as the sun passes 
into the sign of the Ram ; and the servants are not left out of 
the general rejoicing, every man receiving either a month's 
wages or a suit of new clothes. This is the day for calls of 
ceremony on the Prince or Governor of the town, and 
at Tehran the Shah sits in state on the famous peacock 
throne, and holds a reception for the diplomatic corps and 
his loyal subjects, thus copying Cyrus the Great and the 
Achaemenian kings, while the horse-races, so fruitful in 
excitement, take place. 

Nasrullah Khan was most anxious to arrive at our destina- 
tion before the New Year, as Persians believe that if they are 
on a journey on this particular day they will be obliged to 
travel throughout the following twelve months ; but he was 
unable to do so. 

The first thirteen days of the year are kept by the people 
more or less as a holiday, and on the thirteenth day every 
one must keep out of doors, as some trouble or accident will 
surely befall them if they stay in the house. By spending the 
whole day in the open air the evil influence will be kept 
entirely away from their homes, and Persians employ the 



n8 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

time between sunrise and sunset in swinging, beating drums, 
and singing their peculiarly monotonous songs. 

It was quite a sight to see the hundreds of white-shrouded 
women sitting in great crowds near the old fortresses, entirely 
separate from the men in their gaily coloured garments ; our 
usually deserted part of the town, the Baghistan^ or Garden 
District, assuming a most festive appearance. 

From inquiry I found that the holidays during the year 
were legion, and they soon became impressed on my mind, 
because on every Eed the bazaars were all closed, and I 
invariably needed something that Fakir Mahomet should 
have remembered to have purchased on the previous day. 

About this time my brother and I began to make a col- 
lection of insects. A friend, an entomologist, had set me up 
with a net and lethal bottle, and our daily walks in the 
garden became full of interest. There were many different 
species of butterflies, most however, being similar to the 
ordinary English sorts: great, black, burnished carpenter bees 
boomed about, and grasshoppers of all kinds fell an easy 
prey, together with many varieties of wasps. 

During the month of May the vetch, which grew in patches 
on the Kerman plain, was thickly covered with handsome 
scarlet and black and orange and black Capricorn beetles, and 
great, flat-bodied black beetles, resembling those living in the 
mud walls of the houses. Rust-coloured and black lice, and 
the curious little ant-eaters were in thousands on the sandy 
soil, these latter burrowing holes, at the bottom of which they 
lurked concealed to devour the ants that slid down the pit 
and into their jaws. 

Bright yellow locusts made short, swift flights, but had 
appeared too late to damage the crops, which were nearly all 
ripe. They afforded us some fine chases on horseback, my 
brother wielding the net, and the servants and I doing our 
best to head the whirring creatures, which were by no means 
easy to capture. Another kind were coloured a delicate 
green, resembling the young crops, had filigree-like wings 
and huge mouths out of all proportion to their size. 

My greatest find was a large tarantula. I was beetle- 



OLLA PODRIDA 119 

hunting in the desert, when a big yellow and scarlet object 
appeared from under a patch of vetch. For an instant I 
thought it was a frog ; but a glance at its hairy legs, big eyes, 
and beak-like mouth undeceived me, and I began my hunt 
with considerable trepidation, Nasrullah Khan helping me to 
get the loudly hissing spider into my net. Then came the 
unnerving operation of securing it safely in the lethal bottle, 
the mouth of which was sadly small for such big game, and 
the triumphant moment when I corked down the fiercest and 
most active insect I had ever come across. Once inside it 
speedily collapsed from the fumes of the naphthaline, and 
when I examined it at leisure I found that its head and body 
measured three inches. The Governor's doctor calling next 
day said that he did not think its bite was so venomous as 
the Persians say, because a cat belonging to him had once 
been bitten by a very large tarantula and had recovered after 
suffering from a sort of paralysis for twenty days, during 
which she was perpetually shivering. He affirmed that they 
could leap considerable distances if disturbed, and had been 
known to attack men in this way. However, this assertion 
did not prevent me from applying the proverbial grain of 
salt to Nasrullah Khan's Munchausen-like story of how one 
of his acquaintances, when out riding, had been pursued 
so closely by a tarantula that he had been forced to gallop 
hard to escape from it ! 

Very large hornets with cinnamon and yellow banded 
bodies abounded during the spring, but appeared to be 
remarkably good-natured insects. It was rather alarming at 
first when they came booming into the room, blundering 
all round, and coming with quite a bang against one's head 
or cheek ; but although they flew about in numbers, I never 
heard of any one being hurt by their formidable stings. 

There were wasps of all sorts and species, the prettiest 
being a beautiful lemon-colour, and which, when flying, had a 
long pair of back legs hanging gracefully behind it. They 
were indefatigable in building their mud nests all over the 
house and verandah, and it was a great amusement to watch 
these miniature plasterers at work. We were fortunate enough 



120 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

to discover various insects unknown to science, and one small 
wasp which now bears the name of Odynerus Chawneri % in 
honour of my friend, the entomologist, has the proud distinc- 
tion of having a special illustration all to itself in a new book 
on entomology. 

I was anxious to get insects that only venture out by 
night, but all my attempts to do so ended in conspicuous 
failure. 

Under M. de Rakovszky's guidance I prepared a board 
which I smeared with honey and placed under a tree in the 
garden one evening with a lighted lantern beside it, but the 
jackals frustrated my plan by licking up all the honey and 
breaking the lantern into the bargain. Pieces of wood 
bedaubed with a kind of glue met with similar treatment, and 
the only time we caught anything worth having was by 
putting a lamp against the white facade of the house, and 
being on the alert with the net to capture the moths that flew 
against it. 

We could have had quite a menagerie of pets that spring if 
we had taken only a tenth of all the birds and beasts brought 
to us for sale. I was greatly tempted to purchase the dearest 
baby gazelle, but refrained, as it was unfortunately afflicted 
with mange and a bad cough, I found no difficulty, however, 
in resisting another denizen of the plain in the shape of a 
great porcupine, which a couple of men led by a rope, and 
which rattled its quills in its ungainly movements. Of course 
•all kinds of young birds were pressed upon me. Tiny 
swallows which had fallen from their nests in our courtyard, 
which I returned at once to their homes ; beautiful little 
nightjars, and one very small orange-eyed owl, which attracted 
me more than all the rest. I had, however, to decline it, as 
Nasrullah Khan assured me that the whole household would 
be in a state of panic if I kept it, considering that I should be 
bringing an evil thing into the place, and that ill-luck would 
take up a permanent abode at the Consulate if I granted it 
admittance. 

We were quite besieged with swallows that spring. I could 
not keep them out of the sitting-rooms, where they perched 



OLLA PODRIDA 121 

upon the beams supporting the ceilings, and twittered away 
so prettily all day long, building their nests in the dining- 
room and office, while two or three invariably insisted in 
passing the night with me. The Persians consider that they 
bring good luck, and put up little perches for them, to induce 
them to frequent their houses. The water-wagtail, the 
sparrow water-carrier as Persians call it, flirted round our 
tank, doing nothing with a great air of industry, while the 
occasional call of the cuckoo took us back to the green fields 
and hedgerows of old England ; and out on the wide Kerman 
plain we came across the plover, or kaka Yusuf (brother of 
Joseph), so named from its wild cry. 

Our garden seemed filled with handsome young magpies, 
which spent the greater part of the day in squabbling. Akbar 
caught a delightfully bold and friendly bird, which hopped 
about all over the house. He gave the poor thing a dose of 
opium one day, telling Nasrullah Khan, who noticed it 
staggering about, mortally sick and dizzy, that if once it took 
to opium it would never want to leave the place. This 
pleasing fiction was, however, disproved, as before very long 
the magpie deserted us and rejoined its mates. 

Bats flitted about in the evenings, reminding us of the 
Persian legend that once a lump of clay in the form of a 
mouse was brought to Christ, Who was asked whether He 
could endow it with life and the power of flight, and a bat was 
the result. The small owls had a peculiarly plaintive cry, but 
a huge one, that haunted our terraces, indulged in a most 
lugubrious shrieking, so exactly like a dog in pain that it was 
some time before I could grasp the fact that it was a bird, not 
an animal, that produced those weird yells and moans. 

It was curious to hear the dogs in the town answer the 
howling of the jackals, night after night, with furious barking. 

The Persians have a story that once the dogs were the out- 
siders, while the jackals enjoyed life in the towns. The 
former animals, however, cunningly pretended illness, and 
persuaded the guileless jackals to exchange places with them 
until they recovered. This was agreed to, on condition that 
the change should only be of three days' duration, and at the 



122 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

end of that time the jackals returned, and inquired whether 
their canine friends were convalescent ; but they received for 
answer a vigorous " No, no ! " the dishonest dogs never having 
had the slightest intention of quitting the comfortable town 
life for the cold and slow starvation of the country. Hence it 
comes that the dishoused jackals vainly ask the same question 
every evening at dusk, coming round the city walls, to get 
the same answer from their deceivers ! 

And at night as we sat on the terraces in the moonlight, 
we could almost give credence to this tale, as we heard the 
doleful howls of the packs of jackals, calling one another to 
the meeting-place agreed upon. One used to sing a sort of 
scale at irregular intervals, rising higher and higher until he 
reached a note beyond which his voice would not go. Again 
and again he would try to manage this note, invariably 
" breaking " on it in the most comical way, until answered by 
the yelps of his friends, and off the whole pack would go in 
a great hurry, their cries, as they receded, sounding exactly 
like weeping children, and in the distance the notes becoming 
wails of despair. 

I had many nocturnal visits from jackals, owing to the 
carelessness of our guard, who seldom could manage to close 
all three of the approaches to our terraces. The first time I 
was certainly startled, when I was awakened by something 
prowling round my room, making a loud breathing noise, and 
in the moonlight saw the rough coat and bushy tail of a 
jackal. However, I soon got used to such harmless visitors, 
which disappeared like phantoms at the least sound, and never 
returned during that night at least. 

The Persians have various proverbs about these animals, 
one of which is : " The jackal dipped himself in blue dye and 
thought he was the peacock ; " and another says, " Only a 
Mazanderan dog can catch a Mazanderan jackal," the equiva- 
lent of our " Set a thief," &c. 

The sandflies were a great pest, causing me an intense 
irritation on arms, wrists, and ankles. These tiny insects are 
almost invisible, consisting of a pair of minute shadowy 
wings, and no body to speak of, while, alas, no ordinary 



OLLA PODRIDA 123 

mosquito-curtain can keep them out. I used to resort to 
much stratagem to secure a comparatively quiet night, un- 
dressing hurriedly, placing the light at the corner of the room 
furthest from my bed, and doing my best to slay a few of the 
dancing, phantom-like sprites, that speedily surrounded my 
candle. I would then proceed to make an examination of 
my curtains, and was usually filled with despair, as my 
enemies were invariably there before me, waiting in readiness 
on the linen ceiling, and so light were they that it was a* 
matter of the utmost difficulty to kill them. 

When the candle was extinguished I would steal furtively 
to my couch, slip under the curtains, and hope for a good 
night ; but usually I was doomed to disappointment, for 
hardly had I settled myself to my slumbers when a prick, 
sharp as a needle, would effectually rouse me, and the torture 
continued until my foes were sated. The only thing that 
dispersed these active insects was a through draught, which 
was impossible of achievement during the hot season. 
These sandfly bites seemed to be peculiarly poisonous, for 
evening after evening the old ones swelled up, and caused 
me fresh irritation that only a paste of carbonate of soda 
could soothe. 

Besides the nightly concert given us by the jackals, the 
tank in our courtyard supplied us with a " frog symphony,' 
which I always enjoyed, as it reminded me of the gurglings of 
those artificial nightingales produced by means of a pipe and 
a glass of water. This aforesaid tank was a constant worry, 
as, having no exit, the water had all to be baled out and the 
receptacle cleaned frequently, as we did not want it to become 
coated with " frog's clothing," as the Persians call duckweed. 
The servants were only restrained by forcible measures from 
washing their persons and all the dirty dishes of the establish- 
ment in it, and during April it was swarming with tadpoles, 
most of these luckily perishing, as their music would probably 
have become too vociferous to be pleasant. 

When we first settled in at Kerman, we were never free 
from cats. At any time of day we were sure of finding one 
or another sitting on our beds and cushions, and at night they 



124 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

were especially troublesome, bringing food into the house, 
where they would devour it with a great crunching, and when 
" shooed " out would return again after the shortest of 
intervals. What was even worse, they were in the habit of 
settling their disputes in our rooms at night, with much 
spitting and caterwauling, even jumping on our recumbent 
forms in the heat of argument ; and the celebrated remark of 
tne middy might with justice be applied to them, as "manners 
they had none, and their customs were beastly." 

I asked Sultan Sukru one day, to whom all these intruders 
belonged, and was somewhat taken aback when he solemnly 
replied, " To God, Khanutn." My brother waged incessant war 
upon them with his shot-gun, and after awhile despatched 
most of them, although one black cat eluded his utmost vigi- 
lance for a long time. One of the servants rushed upstairs one 
evening, and pointed out to my brother a dusky form sitting on 
the edge of the tank in the courtyard. He had his gun ready 
in a trice, and fired from the window at his enemy, which, to 
our great amusement, turned out to be a hot-water can, which 
was completely riddled by the shot ! The Persians got quite 
alarmed at the many lives apparently possessed by this cat, 
affirming that it was a spirit, and that, if we did not take care, 
it would turn into some monstrous shape and annihilate us ; 
and when it too met its fate, they inspected its corpse with a 
great awe. 

Our garden had masses of tumbled-looking pink roses, and it 
was one of the occupations of the women to nip the heads 
off to make rose-water, and great fun they had during this 
operation. One day I came across a group of laughing girls, 
their ghostly white sheets thrown back, who were surrounding 
one of their number lying flat on the takt, or mud platform, 
in the garden, and gleefully burying her in the fragrant pink 
blossoms. 

The famous attar of roses is no longer manufactured in 
Kerman, the reason being that the roses grown in the few 
gardens round the town are not nearly sufficient to render the 
distillation of the renowned perfume worth while, if indeed the 
Kermanis have not lost the secret of the art. 



OLLA PODRIDA 125 

Plenty of rose-water, however, is made, being used by the 
rich for their ablutions, and by all classes to flavour their 
sherbets. The process of making it was a very simple one, 
masses of rose-heads being put into a great iron pot of water, 
and the vessel heaped round with burning charcoal. A jar 
filled with cold water was then placed on the flowers, and the 
perfumed fluid slowly dripped from a tube passed through the 
cold water into a bottle placed to receive it Whoever was 
making this gulabi always insisted on drenching our handker- 
chiefs with the warm liquid, which had a most sickly odour. 

In some gardens certain rose-trees grew to a great height, 
forming a sort of arbour, a mass of pure waxy white or yellow 
or vivid orange blossoms — a wonderful sight to behold ; and in 
their mazes the sweet-voiced little bulbuls sang at intervals all 
day long ; while about this time the pistachio-trees were most 
beautiful, their nuts hanging in pale green bunches, flushed 
with a brilliant crimson. 

Besides roses, we had many of the common flowers one 
finds in English gardens, such as jessamine, petunias, marigolds, 
asters, hollyhocks, dahlias, and so on, which fact surprised me, 
until I learnt from a botanist that most of our garden flowers 
come from Persia. There were also spikes of a curious white, 
pink, or purple flower, which is called " the tongue at the back 
of the neck," Persians saying that this shameless flower put 
out its tongue at its mother, and was punished in perpetuity 
by that member being made to grow out behind instead of in 
front. 

One of the nice traits about the Persian upper classes is 
their intense love of a garden. They have no desire to work 
in it, to see that it is well weeded or kept in proper order, or 
to trouble overmuch about what flowers and vegetables, or 
even crops, their gardener may grow in it. It may be as wild 
and neglected as it pleases, but it must contain running water, 
shady trees, and a few mud platforms ; all these are essential. 
A Persian gentleman is quite content to gather his friends 
round him in such a place, during the hot summer days, where 
the grateful shade of the trees, and the plash of the water 
gliding by are conducive to those long philosophic or religious 



126 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

discussions so beloved of Orientals, while tea and kalians, 
slumber and hours of prayer all play their part in helping the 
time to slip pleasantly away. 

And while I am on the subject of gardens, it may not be 
amiss to say a few words about the system by which they are 
watered. As water is perhaps the most valuable property in 
Persia it is guarded with jealous care, and it is said that it is a 
more fruitful and fatal cause of bloodshed than anything 
else. Our house, situated in the midst of several gardens, was 
supplied by an underground stream from the hills, and this was 
allowed to be used by the gardens in turn for so many hours 
at a time. Our landlord had only paid for twelve hours' water 
once in every ten days, and this was a sadly insufficient supply, 
as our vegetable and flower-seeds from Sutton testified by 
withering up as soon as they had appeared above the ground. 
We had our compensations, however, as the stream, which sup- 
plied the quarter, was obliged to pass through our garden on 
its way to all the others, so that we were never without 
running water, which, nevertheless, it would have been little 
short of a crime to use for our plants, although it was allow- 
able to take what we wished for purposes of washing and 
drinking. 

The Persian rainfall is certainly a very scanty one. During 
our nine months' stay at Kerman I do not think it rained for 
even a week ; but if a system of storing the water which rushes 
down the hills when the snow melts, were adopted the sterility 
prevailing in many parts of the country, which is in reality 
most fertile, would be greatly lessened. 

By the middle of May the opium crop, one of the principal 
products of Kerman, was quite ready. The white petals having 
fallen off, the big calyx heads were scored four times with a 
kind of steel comb, the juice that oozed out being collected, 
dried, and kneaded into small lumps for exportation. During 
this operation the whole vicinity of the town became so im- 
pregnated with the smell of the drug as to make one feel quite 
sleepy when passing near the fields of poppies ; and we were 
told that the innocent-looking flowers were a curse to the place, 
many of the women having become confirmed opium-smokers, 



OLLA PODRIDA 127 

and cases among our own servants showing us the fatal power 
of the drug when abused. 

One of our grooms was wasted nearly to a skeleton from 
this practice, his eyes had a glassy stare, and he was in a 
dreamy state all day long, quite unfit for his work. Later on 
he much wanted to accompany us into Baluchistan, but when 
he heard that no opium was to be purchased in that uncivilised 
region, he gave up the idea ; this resignation on his part, how- 
ever, being quite unnecessary, as my brother would never have 
thought of taking such a man on a long, toilsome journey. 

The amount of electricity in the air that summer was curious. 
As I drew the blankets off my bed at night, the profusion of 
sparks was quite startling, making me wonder whether it were 
possible for my mosquito curtains to catch fire. 

On our tea-table was a silk cloth which was covered with a 
damask one at tea-time. When the servant cleared away the 
white cloth we used sometimes by chance to lay our hands on 
the silk beneath it, and received quite violent electric shocks, the 
cloth retaining its unpleasant power for some moments ; while 
words fail to describe the crackling of my hair and the long 
sparks that flew from it when it was brushed and combed. 

Towards the end of April Mr. Carless, one of the mission- 
aries from Isfahan, came for a couple of months to Kerman, 
as he wished to see whether the latter town would prove a good 
field for missionary enterprise. We felt quite in the world 
again, being a party of four Europeans, until M. de Rakovszky 
left, to our regret, at the beginning of May. It was a 
great thing to have an Englishman with us on the occasion 
of the Queen's Birthday, and I took unusual pains with our 
dinner that evening, in order to do as much honour to the 
event as was possible in Kerman. We gave the servants a 
big feed of pillau, over the distribution of which Nasrullah 
Khan presided, to see that no unfairness took place. He 
quoted a Persian proverb to show me the strong feeling that 
this meal might have power to arouse : " All pains can be 
forgotten in forty days, but the pain of having been defrauded 
of food lasts for forty years ! " 

Mr. Carless had brought a native apothecary with him, and 



128 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the garden of his house in the town was always crowded 
with applicants for medical assistance. He was kind enough 
to allow two or three of our servants to be treated for an eye 
complaint, common enough in Persia, and brought on by 
exposure to the sun ; but after going once to be operated 
upon, they actually preferred bad eyes to the trouble of 
walking a mile to Mr. Carless's residence ; and from remarks 
they made, we could see that they considered they were doing 
the apothecary a favour by visiting him. 

The Indian syce, an absurd coward, who used to sob like a 
child in anticipation of the pain, was the only one who went 
regularly, and one day had the impertinence to ask us to 
praise him for this astounding piece of virtue on his part ! 
My Parsee maid, not to be behindhand, developed a complaint, 
alarming me greatly, as she took to groaning and moaning all 
day long, doing no work and sleeping in and out of season. 
We were informed, however, that her ailment was insignificant 
and of many years' standing ; but despite the intense anguish 
that to all appearance she was suffering, she could, with diffi- 
culty, be induced to take her medicine. She always insisted 
that either my brother or I should examine it first, and then 
she required us to look on while she brought water and drank 
it off in our presence. 

Mr. Carless told me of several ways in which Persian 
doctors prescribe for their patients. On one occasion a poor 
child was brought to him with an abnormally big head, the 
parents telling him that it was possessed by a demon, but 
that the cure recommended by the native doctor had unfor- 
tunately failed in its effect. The prescription had been to 
leave the child for some hours in an open grave, during which 
time the malignant spirit would either kill or quit its little 
victim. The parents fed the child well, and it soon fell asleep 
in its novel cradle, in which condition it was found at the 
appointed hour, but, strange to say, not a whit the better or 
the worse for the experiment ! 

Another child, which had been terribly burnt, was submitted 
to his inspection, its wounds being smeared all over with soot 
from the bottom of cooking vessels — a treatment somewhat 



OLLA PODRIDA 129 

analagous to that of " the hair of the dog that bit you." A 
pearl ground up is considered to be a powerful restorative, 
when the patient is apparently at the point of death, and 
powdered emeralds and rubies are supposed to give strength ; 
while a Persian afflicted with an epileptic fit is said to be under- 
going a beating at the hands of devils. All diseases are classed 
as hot or cold, moist or dry, the doctors still following Galen 
and Hippocrates, although Western ideas are gaining ground 
in all the towns. 

Some families possess an infallible remedy for the stings 
and bites of scorpions and tarantulas, in the shape of certain 
small stones, which are kept as heirlooms, and handed down 
from generation to generation as most cherished possessions. 

These are believed to be a secretion from the eyes of an 
unfortunate prince, turned by enchantment into an ibex, 
which lamented its cruel fate with floods of tears, that 
hardened as they fell on the barren Persian hills, among 
which it was condemned to wander. 

These antidotes are used in the same way as the celebrated 
Indian "snake stones," being pressed on to the wounded 
place, from which they are believed to suck the poison. 

The Arabs have a far less agreeable remedy for the sting 
of a scorpion. The sufferer is laid in a freshly dug grave, 
and upon him are heaped the garments of seven married and 
seven unmarried men. If he is unable to survive this suffo- 
cating treatment, he is buried forthwith in the grave so con- 
siderately prepared beforehand. 

Those happy days at Kerman flowed by very uneventfully. 
Our mornings were spent in working and insect-collecting, 
while after lunch we took long rides, exploring the country 
in every direction. M. de Rakovszky was an enthusiastic 
horseman, and my brother improvised a riding-school in the 
desert, to which we would all adjourn and go through the 
manoeuvres as practised in the British and Austrian cavalry. 

Frequently when Persians came to call, they were swept 
off with us for a ride, and it was comic to see their wild 
endeavours to copy my brother's lead. The townsmen, 
however, were usually inferior horsemen ; but the nomad 



130 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

chieftains were very different to these. I remember one day, 
how a certain Reza Khan, a wild leader among the dwellers 
in tents, called on my brother, and accompanied us to the 
tent-pegging course which had been laid out. This chieftain 
wore a sort of uniform, his blue, full-skirted coat being 
adorned with brass buttons, and boasting a small piece of 
gold braid on its collar. When riding, his trousers were for 
ever rucking up, and his white socks for ever coming down 
over his boots. I noticed this fact because he was the first 
Persian I had seen galloping ; but, later on, I observed that 
it was the usual habit of Persians when riding, and gave 
them a most untidy appearance. His two sons were clad in 
green and purple silk jackets under their long coats, and his 
ten followers rode on a medley of wretched horses, mules, 
and donkeys. They were excessively dirty, ill-dressed 
fellows, with wild elf-locks flying in the wind, and always 
kept uncomfortably close behind us, all agog to listen to our 
conversation. At intervals they would gallop their steeds 
wildly over the worst bits of stony ground, dashing madly 
on in front, to show off their paces : one of them came 
down, horse and rider rolling over together, and both picked 
themselves up unconcernedly, as if it were a matter of 
daily occurrence. All were armed with guns, and had a bold, 
fierce expression, very different to that of the timid towns- 
folk. 

The Khan could hardly keep his eyes off me, so impressed 
was he at the sight of a woman on horseback, as he could 
not comprehend how I kept on ; but his surprise was yet 
greater when he was informed that our dog, trotting behind 
us, had a weekly bath ! He invited my brother to try a 
Persian sport. An egg was placed on a tiny mound of sand, 
and the Khan unslung the rifle from his shoulder, and waving 
it round and round in the air put his spirited pony at full 
gallop, looping his reins over the high peak of the saddle. 
He made a feint of aiming at the egg before he reached it ; 
but when he had passed it at full tilt, he stood upright in his 
stirrups, and turning round in the saddle, fired, and hit it. He 
was much piqued when my brother followed suit, and crashed 



OLLA P0DR1DA 13 1 

an egg to smithereens with a shot-gun ; and became very- 
angry with his youngest son, whose horse bolted with him 
each time he let go the reins. It was a relief when this 
young gentleman desisted from this sport, as a loaded rifle is 
a dangerous plaything in inexperienced hands ; and it was 
then proposed that they should try lemon-cutting with a 
sword. Their indifferent success in this sport somewhat 
depressed them ; but they cheered up considerably during a 
performance which they gave of throwing the taghala. This 
is a stick heavily loaded at one end, which the rider flourishes 
in the air, high over his head ; then breaks into full gallop, 
stands up in his stirrups, and bowls the missile in such a way 
that it leaps several times off the hard ground. Some 
Persians catch it during these leaps, but it is not part of the 
game to do so. I never saw much point in this performance, 
and it was a dangerous one to boot, as many have had their 
eyes gouged out by the flying missile, and on one occasion, 
a player, noticing that only one half of his stick lay on the 
ground, and reining up to see what had become of the other 
half, found it embedded in his horse's chest ! 

The amusement I enjoyed most at Kerman was to ride 
out to some garden to tea. Sometimes we would go to a 
mountain village, set in the midst of a stony desert, its ferti- 
lising stream making it an oasis in the dreary desolation all 
around. Tea would be spread on a carpet, perhaps in a 
garden of pomegranates, the scarlet blossoms glowing like 
flames out of the gloom of the surrounding trees, and the 
proprietor of the place would bring us a great tray of 
mulberries, apricots, and the much-esteemed short, fat 
cucumbers. The children peeping shyly at us, would be 
offered pieces of cake or biscuits, and the pourboire given 
as we rode off would sometimes draw down a shower of 
blessings on our heads from Its simple recipients, who would 
prophesy for us every kind of good thing, not only in this, 
but in the next world The heat would be over as we 
rode home in the fresh air, and a sunset which I have no 
words to describe would give a beautiful finish to the day. 
Sometimes returning in the dusk, we would come across an 



132 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

odd little company. Several young men would be marching 
along joyously to the shrill notes of a pipe and the quick 
rattle of a drum, followed by a crowd of the spectral-looking 
women in full white garments. Absurd as it may seem, 
such a sight always reminded me of a Greek procession, and 
the darkness, hiding possible dirt and ugliness, made the 
whole thing quite idyllic. 

On Thursday evenings the whole population of Kerman 
would be wandering about the cemeteries, all the shops in 
the Bazaars being shut, in preparation for Friday, with its 
weekly bath and worship in the mosque. The beggars were 
always assembled in full force, demanding alms clamorously, 
and offering in exchange their prayers for the souls of the 
departed relatives of the donors ; while white - turbaned 
mollahs repaired in a body to sit on the graves, reading 
chapters of the Koran, at a fixed rate of payment, for the 
benefit of the deceased. The children of the town were also 
given sweetmeats on this day for the same purpose. 

Persian graveyards are, as a rule, the dreariest and most 
neglected of places, the monuments invariably falling into 
ruins. The one at Kerman, however, was better kept, a 
pretty shrine, with a blue and white tiled dome, rising from 
amid the flat grave-slabs, made of sun-dried bricks. We 
often came across a procession wending its way hither, the 
coffin being carried in a litter. On arrival at the grave the 
shrouded corpse was lifted out of the coffin and laid in the 
earth, tiles being placed over it before it was finally covered 
up and left to its long repose. 

Thursday evening has been mentioned as being the time 
when Persians resort to the cemeteries, but, curiously enough, 
all evenings in Persia are antedated, the particular evening 
I have mentioned being always called Friday evening, the 
idea being that it is the eve or vigil of Friday. This habit 
naturally causes mistakes among Europeans new to the 
country and its ways ; as if, for instance, a Persian be asked 
to dinner on Monday night, he will turn up on Sunday 
instead, to the probable embarrassment of his host. 

Our life at Kerman, simple and uneventful as it was, was 



OLLA PODRIDA 133 

one of the most enjoyable that I have ever led, and this was 
mainly owing to the superb climate of the country. We were 
on the great Iran Plateau, stretching from the north of 
Tehran to some marches south of Kerman, and were living 
at an altitude of 5,600 feet, in such a bracing, exhilarating 
air that it was a joy merely to be alive. 

Morning after morning I woke up to see the golden sun- 
shine pouring into my room and gilding the graceful columns 
on the terrace outside, and rose with a feeling of over- 
flowing energy, far more than sufficient to cope with the 
small domestic worries I should in all probability have to 
encounter during the day. Throughout our entire stay at 
Kerman neither of us had a touch of illness of any kind, but 
were invariably in the best of health and spirits. 

For my part I was never dull for a moment, throwing 
myself with the keenest zest into my housekeeping, and finding 
the Persians surrounding me intensely interesting, in that they 
afforded endless opportunities for studies in character. The 
weekly post and our picnics were our amusements, the former 
taking exactly five weeks to reach us from England. It used 
to make me laugh when I received letters from friends who 
pitied me being " in exile " as they imagined, and to whom 
the fact of my being two hundred miles from my nearest 
European neighbour seemed quite appalling ! They little knew 
that I was passing through some of the happiest months of my 
whole existence, although I must confess there are not many 
women with whom the Persian climate agrees as it did with 
me. My Tehran friends told a very different tale. Most of 
the ladies lost both health and nerves ; several were subject 
to constant attacks of fever, and one and all complained of 
the exceeding dryness of the atmosphere, and longed for the 
day to come when they could return to Europe ; but I 
revelled in the perpetual sunshine, which I had never before 
enjoyed to the full, and was absolutely content, with scarcely 
even the proverbial crumpled rose-leaf to mar my fortunate lot! 



CHAPTER X 

FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 

WE had only been settled a few days in our new home 
when we had a visit from the old Sahib Diwan, 
Governor of the province and grandson of the notorious 
Ibrahim Khan, by whose instrumentality the Kajar rulers 
of to-day wrested Persia from the Zend dynasty a century 
ago. 

Having expressed a wish to see me, the Sahib Diwan came 
dressed in plain clothes, as he was told that to appear in 
uniform would be to change his call into an official visit at 
which I could not be present. 

He arrived about half-past three, but long before that hour 
the servants were in a state of much excitement over their 
preparations for afternoon tea, bustling about in a purposeless 
way, and flourishing the white cotton gloves of which they 
were inordinately proud, and which were only produced on 
great occasions such as the present. The white tea, to which 
Persians are so much addicted, was seething in the teapot 
above the burning charcoal of the samovar, the sherbet was 
ready with a large assortment of cakes, sweets, and biscuits, 
and Hashim was fingering everything to give the cakes a 
more appetising appearance, when a carriage drove to the 
entrance of the courtyard, and in a few moments the great 
man himself had panted up the steep steps leading to our 
sitting-room. He was nearly eighty years of age, with scanty 
beard and moustache, well-cut nose, and bright, intelligent 
eyes, and was clad in a long-sleeved tunic of pale blue silk, 

134 



FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 135 

over which he wore a coat of fine cream cloth, and on top of 
all a big lemon-coloured mantle lined with scarlet. The 
orthodox kolah of black lamb's-wool completed his costume, 
and he entered leaning on a stick, the handle of which was 
thickly studded with turquoises. 

After we had shaken hands, I thanked him in my best 
Persian for a present of sherbets which he had sent me that 
morning, and he chatted volubly as he tasted our European 
delicacies, took snuff, and smoked several kalians, one of his 
own being quite a work of art in ebony and gold. He 
announced his intention of giving me some specimens of the 
rare Jiruft partridges, which accordingly arrived some days 
later, but were so wild that they resisted all my efforts to 
tame them, and finally were sent to our Zoological Gardens, 
undergoing the long voyage remarkably well, and rearing a 
flourishing little family before they reached their destination. 

The Sahib Diwan did not stay long at Kerman, for an 
intrigue at Tehran ousted him from his Governorship towards 
the end of April. When my brother paid him a farewell 
visit, just before his departure, there was a sad change in his 
establishment, as in place of the busy throng of servants and 
parasites, who were wont to surround him, only two or three 
of his personal domestics were now to be seen. 

The system of government in Persia is that the Shah farms 
out the different parts of his kingdom for so many thousand 
tomans (about 4s.) a year to the highest bidder. This 
arrangement always takes place at Noruz. The Governor 
then proceeds to his province, and recoups himself doubly 
or trebly for his outlay, collecting the money as fast as 
he can, for next Noruz will not be long in coming, and 
he may then be turned out, or at all events have to give 
the Shah a much larger sum to enable him to continue in 
office. 

Sorry as we were for the Sahib Diwan, who had been 
hardly a month in power, yet we could not but be glad at his 
departure, for we heard that the Farman Farma, my brother's 
old friend, had been appointed Governor in his place, and as 
this prince was a man of enlightened views, with a civilised 



136 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

French-speaking suite, we looked forward to having quite a 
pleasant society at Kerman. 

Not many days after this my first lady visitor arrived, 
attended by a hideous old Abyssinian negress. Both women 
were completely hidden from view by large black silk 
chaddars edged with gold gimp, long pieces of white silk 
hanging over their faces, with small oblongs of lacework 
in front of their eyes, the whole arrangements kept in place 
by being fastened at the back of their heads by clasps. 
When her outer wrap was slipped off the mistress disclosed 
an emerald-green velvet jacket trimmed with bands of vivid 
purple, sky-blue silk gloves embroidered with red roses 
completing a curious discord in colours, while her head-dress 
was a piece of stiff book-muslin, fastened under the chin and 
flowing behind, giving a nun-like look strangely at variance 
with the rest of the toilette. It was a warm afternoon, and 
the balakhana windows were open while we drank our tea, 
which was poured out by Marie, as of course no man-servant 
might enter the room while my visitor was present. Every 
now and again the lady would espy one of the labourers in 
the garden, or some one would come across the courtyard 
below, and in a second she would envelop herself in her wrap 
and veil, until the danger, purely imaginary to my eyes, was 
past. The old negress was far coyer than her mistress, and 
giggled like the most bashful of schoolgirls, when she dis- 
closed her dusky charms to my feminine gaze. 

During her first visit my guest and I exchanged little more 
than a series of compliments, but later on in our acquaintance 
she confided her wrongs to me. Her husband had taken a 
second wife, and, entirely contrary to Persian etiquette, both 
ladies inhabited the same house, had the same servants, and 
lived in common. Such a state of things was unbearable, as 
my friend bitterly complained to me. She, the chief wife and 
mother of his children, was put second to a woman, her 
inferior in social position, and whose son by another husband 
was made much of. 

She was always eager to hear about my life in England, 
but I fear that my accounts only made her lot the gloomier 



FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 137 

and she said frequently that she could never understand why 
I came to Persia, when I could live in such a well-regulated 
country as the one I had described to her. 

She amused me by invariably taking with her at the close 
of each visit specimens of all the biscuits, dried fruits, and 
sweets that were laid out on the tea-table, as she wished to 
display them to the second wife, her object being, I believe, 
to awaken jealousy in the breast of that lady with highly 
coloured accounts of the "party" she had been to, which 
accounts the European food would bear out in some degree. 

One of our most constant visitors was old Haji Muhammed 
Khan, son of the famous Vakil-i-Mulk, once Governor of 
Kerman. Before the Crimean War he had spent several 
years in Paris, and always looked back with regret to that 
halcyon period of his life. He was most pompous in manner, 
insisting in calling my brother " Votre Excellence? in spite of 
our remonstrances, and once asked me where the fleet lay of 
which my brother was the admiral, as he knew already that 
he was a general in the army, and evidently had an idea 
that these high appointments went in pairs ! 

In a certain book on Persia, the writer of which visited 
Kerman, a paragraph was devoted to our friend, in which he 
was stigmatised as an intolerable bore, officious, inquisitive, 
impertinent, and what not besides. One day I could not 
resist the temptation of asking Haji Khan if he remembered 
the author of the book in question. " Remember him ! " he 
cried enthusiastically ; " he is one of my dearest friends. He 
writes to me constantly, and has sent me his photo just 
lately ! " I did not give the credence to this that I might 
perhaps have done if Haji Khan had not already regaled us 
with anecdotes of his long-gone-by visit to London, and of 
the affable way in which he had been received by the Prince 
of Wales. He affirmed that his Royal Highness pressed the 
Order of the Garter upon him, which the Persian, from no 
ostensible reason, politely but firmly declined, and later on in 
our acquaintance with him he would relate that it was the 
Queen herself who was so anxious to enrol him as a member 
of that distinguished order. 



138 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Our old friend used generally to bring an orange with him, 
which he would present to me as if offering a bouquet, with 
much ceremony, and he invariably inquired as to the age of 
the Queen, and the progress of the war between China and 
Japan, putting the latter question regularly long after we had 
assured him that the whole thing was over. 

In spite of all refusals, he was most anxious to press the 
society of his wife and daughters upon me, offering frequently 
to send them on a three or four days' visit to the Consulate, 
and apparently quite callous as to the risks they would run 
in a house where there was no anderoon, or women's apart- 
ments. 

Another of our visitors told us his family history one 
afternoon, no uncommon one some half a century ago in 
Persia. 

His grandfather, a rich man, left at his death a large sum 
of money to the father of our friend. News of this was 
brought to the predecessor of the reigning Shah, who promptly 
sent a body of soldiers to extort it from the heir, who was 
from home at the time. The men ransacked the house, 
turning the women out of doors, two of whom died from 
the cold and starvation consequent on their exposure during 
the winter, and carried off everything, even to the doors 
of the rooms. The unfortunate heir was imprisoned for 
two years, and on his release the Shah graciously gave him 
back his dismantled dwelling, saying, " We are not savages, 
that we should take everything from you." 

The man returned to his home a beggar, no one dared 
greet or speak to him, and in his despair he was on the 
verge of committing suicide when his eye was caught by an 
old wooden chest, the single piece of furniture left in the 
pillaged house. He remembered having hidden ten thousand 
gold pieces in this same chest, which contained the shrouds 
of his family kept there in readiness for their obsequies ; but 
he could hardly summon up courage to lift the lid, so fearful 
was he lest this last gleam of hope should be extinguished. 
Marvellous to relate, however, the money was there, the 
piety of the captain of the soldiers having prevented the 




RARGI. 



FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 139 

shrouds from being disturbed. But the troubles of this 
sorely tried man were by no means ended. He had wealth, 
but it would have remained with him for barely a day if he 
had dared to display it. Therefore he was obliged to resort 
to the stratagem of battering one of his coins till the inscrip- 
tion was obliterated, and then selling it for less than half its 
value to a Jew, telling him that he had dug it up by chance. 
And so for years he was forced to live like a beggar, keeping 
no servant, and disposing of his coins one by one to buy 
the commonest food. His dead father had left him many 
villages ; but the soldiers had taken the title-deeds of these 
properties and had sold them. In Persia, however, it is 
considered a sin to usurp land in this way, so little by little 
the heir was enabled to get back his lost papers, paying 
for them and conducting the transactions with the utmost 
secrecy, until the happy day arrived when his friends were 
able to intercede for him with the Shah, and by means of 
their efforts he was once more free to enjoy his own again. 

As Marie, the Swiss maid I had brought out with me, 
proved entirely unsuited to a life of travel, we took the 
opportunity of sending her to Karachi under the escort of 
Sultan Sukru, who was anxious to visit his relatives in 
India after his long absence, and I engaged one of the 
despised Gabres, or Fire-worshippers, to wait upon me in 
her place. Bargi, as I called her (a Turkish word mean- 
ing sister, and always used by Europeans when addressing 
their maids), was a pretty little woman, and toddled about 
in baggy white trousers, a gay chintz jacket, and a long 
white cotton veil draping the back of her head and hang- 
ing gracefully behind ; while several checked cotton hand- 
kerchiefs were tied round her face. She kept herself and 
my rooms spotlessly clean, and was most anxious to be 
instructed in all the mysterious ways of the Feringhees; 
but was very nervous at first, brushing my hair with little 
trembling pats, and using the comb with a ferocious energy, 
which forced me to remind her that she was not operating 
on a mule. By degrees her rudimentary sewing became 
quite a work of art, although she always stitched backwards ; 



140 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

and she was abel to make up my summer cottons, which 
Marie's departure had left " in the piece " ; but she never had 
the patience to master the art of darning, and would patch 
the stockings in a most remarkable manner if left to herself. 
Bargi was a widow with two children, and these facts made 
her consider herself entitled to indulge in a peculiarly whining 
tone of voice. She informed me that throughout her life she 
had "eaten sorrow," but when she mentioned that her late 
husband had ill-treated her, and then demanded sympathy 
from me on account of his death, I told her plainly that her 
apparent desolation was a cause for rejoicing. Persians 
consider a lachrymose address a great attraction in a woman, 
it being " genteel " ; but we, however, did not appreciate it, 
and when we used to hear her grumbling about everything, 
complaining that the food we gave her was khaili karab (very 
bad) and so on, we used to send a servant to request her to 
remove at least a mile off if she wished to persist in her 
lamentations, and this request very soon cured her and in a 
short time she settled down comfortably into her niche, and 
I could not have had a brighter and more willing handmaid. 
She became very fond of her mistress, and was of such a 
marvellous honesty that after awhile I trusted her entirely 
with my belongings, and never once had cause to regret the 
confidence I placed in her ; and certainly she was an example 
of the Persian saying, "Man is a slave to his benefactor." 
Curiously enough she would never own to being over twenty 
years of age, though her son was aged twelve, and her 
daughter eight. At first I had more than enough of Bargi' s 
children, as they and flocks of lady visitors used to come to 
see my handmaid in her new surroundings, and I objected 
strongly to their wandering on the terraces at all hours, 
gazing at me with the half-reverent wonder that they would 
have accorded to an idol in a shrine, and bringing me offer- 
ings of oranges, cucumbers, and roses. But I found when I 
put a stop to these visits that Bargi would descend to her 
friends in the garden and would have sat chatting with them 
all day long, if I had not sharply remonstrated with her. 
The great function of the week to her was her departure to 



FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 141 

her bath every Monday, this being her "day out," as her 
ablutions seemed unable to be completed under ten hours. 
However, it was some distance to the town, and a snail 
might almost have kept pace with her, so slowly did she 
progress in her quaint heelless slippers turned up at the toes. 

Of religion she had none, as far as I could find out, except 
a respect for fire, extinguishing a candle or match with her 
fingers when I ordered her to put them out, as human breath 
would be a pollution to the sacred element. 

After being with me for some time, however, she com- 
menced to blow out candles boldly as I did, looking at me 
in a scared way at first as if afraid lest some awful retribution 
should overtake her ! 

She had some funny superstitions, such as refusing to wash 
anything on a Tuesday, as she affirmed that it would never 
get clean. Once or twice I made her wash my hair on this 
ill-fated day, and she always performed the task with much 
reluctance and remonstrance, though I fancy that she soon 
saw that the curse did not cling to Europeans. She used 
also to tie a little white shell to a pair of scissors I gave her, 
saying that she was always losing them, but that now she 
would never have trouble in finding them again. I amused 
myself occasionally by asking her for them, and then laugh- 
ing at her when she failed to produce them in spite of that 
infallible shell. 

In common with many Orientals she considered her skin 
to be of lily whiteness, and was much upset when I presented 
her with a photo of her brown little self, saying that I had 
made her black, and that her mother had wept over the insult 
to her daughter when shown it. For answer I placed one of 
my hands beside her dark one, but, not to be outdone, she 
said promptly, " Yes, Khanum, you are white because you use 
that beautiful Feringhee sabun, and henceforth she always 
begged for scraps of my Pears' soap, which she took when 
she went to her bath. I wonder if she imagined that she 
became whiter in consequence, but of course I never dared 
to make inquiries on a subject which was evidently a tender 
one with her ! 



142 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

One day she observed that she supposed I was a Moham- 
medan, as she knew for certain that I was not a Parsee. I 
rather wondered at her making such a remark, as Mr. Carless 
during his stay at Kerman gave us a service every Sunday 
in our sitting-room, and it was BargVs office to keep 
" Diana " away during the time it lasted, as her behaviour 
was too demonstrative on these occasions. I felt at the time 
how much an ardent missionary would blame me for not 
taking advantage of this opening to make a convert. But 
even if I had explained the rudiments of our religion to her, 
she was totally incapable of understanding them, as her 
brain-power was about equal, if not inferior, to that of Diana. 
It may be heresy to say it, but it seemed throughout my stay 
in the East that our religion was one far beyond a race 
which was really only sufficiently civilised to comprehend 
and be bound by the rigid fetters of Islamism. The Gabres 
believe in Hormuz, the God of Light, who is in eternal 
conflict with Ahriman, the power of Darkness. Once in pre- 
historic ages, the sun-god overcame the evil spirit for a time, 
but since then he has gained no decisive victory, and the 
result of the daily fight is still doubtful. His worshippers 
say themselves that they only worship the sun and fire as 
being symbols of the vital forces of the earth. The Moham- 
medans look down upon them because they affirm that they 
have no " book," subjecting them to various restrictions in 
the matter of dress and occupation, and not intermarrying 
with them, while they place Christians, from the fact of their 
possessing a Bible, on a much higher level. 

The Parsee women are unveiled, but have an absurd 
number of coverings on their heads. First of all is a close- 
fitting, black silk skull-cap with a gold gimp edging, over 
which a square white handkerchief is knotted, and then a 
flowing white drapery, which falls over the back of the head 
and shoulders. Over this come two checked handkerchiefs, 
and the long outdoor wrap, six coverings in all — a contrast 
to the body, which is clad only in the parti-coloured tunic 
and trousers. A married woman is supposed to hide away 
her black locks very carefully, and on the rare occasions 



FOUR VISITORS AND A MAID 143 

when I chanced upon Bargi divested of her headgear, she was 
much shocked that I should see her in such deshabille, as 
she considered it, and would cover her hair up in a terrible 
hurry. Even at night she would only divest herself of one or 
two of her many handkerchiefs ; but the Parsee children wear 
half a dozen long plaits, which fall picturesquely below the 
little white coif that they affect. 

Contrary to the Persians, they have no prejudice against 
dogs, and Bargi was quite devoted to " Diana," although on 
one occasion she was much upset when the latter stole some 
of her food. She rushed round the courtyard weeping and 
lamenting, and finding the servants unsympathetic, cried out 
that neither they nor the dog were her friends. This remark 
caused quite an uproar in our establishment, our whole staff 
rushing in a body to Nasrullah Khan to complain that Bargi 
had dared to put them on a level with the unclean animal. 

The Gabres are careful not to pollute earth, air, fire, or 
water ; hence their peculiar mode of burial. They never 
smoke, as such an act would profane the sacred fire that 
they worship, and their priests wear veils over their mouths 
while officiating, so as not to pollute the holy flame with 
their breath. This fire, burning brightly on a tripod, is never 
suffered to go out, and when a little colony of Parsees wish 
to start a temple of their own they procure the object of their 
worship from Yezd, where it has burnt unextinguished for 
centuries. 

The men wear a belt tied in a peculiar knot, the three 
cords of which it is composed being symbolic of the good 
thoughts, good words, and good deeds which are the basis of 
their religion, and they refasten this girdle five times daily at 
their hours of prayer. 

Centuries of oppression seem powerless to really degrade 
this race, and the very Persians who consider their touch a 
defilement give them the highest character for honesty. They 
say, with a refreshing candour, that a Gabre will never steal, 
because he has " lost heart " to do anything of a risky nature, 
putting down to fear the practice of a virtue almost unknown 
to themselves. 



CHAPTER XI 

OUR STAY IN THE HILLS 

BY the end of May the heat and insects were sufficiently 
unpleasant, but both became quite intolerable during 
June, and a temperature of 90 in the house, hot, airless 
nights, and the worry of legions of flies made us begin to 
think seriously of seeking cooler quarters. 

However, it was no light undertaking to leave our home 
as, owing to the total absence of locks on any of the doors, 
and a want of confidence in the honesty of the ferashes, who 
were left in charge of our premises, we were compelled to 
dismantle the entire house. There were boxes of stores to 
be packed, camp equipment to be examined, and the usual 
difficulty about transport presented itself, while the help- 
lessness of our Persian servants made personal supervision 
of every detail indispensable. To add to my worries Bargi 
pestered me at frequent intervals for advice as to the toilettes 
she should take with her, and I do not know how we should 
have been able to make a start if it had not been for the 
unfailing energy and activity of my willing ally the syce. 

We were awakened on the day of our departure at an early 
hour by our servants, who presented a somewhat curious 
appearance. The ordinary felt skull-caps and givas of every- 
day use were replaced by big flapping hats and top-boots, 
while one and all carried murderous-looking knives in their 
belts, and were provided with blue goggles and aftabgurdans, 
or shades for their eyes. They evidently regarded our depar- 
ture with much approval, and were in high spirits, looking 
forward, no doubt, to the jira (journey-money) of a kran a 



OUR STA V IN THE HILLS 145 

day, which it is customary in Persia to allow servants when 
travelling. " Much travel is needed to ripen a man's raw- 
ness " is a well-known Persian proverb, which is further 
amplified by the saying, " The man who has seen most of 
the world is the greatest liar." 

Bargi had apparently become a person of some impor- 
tance among her co-religionists in Kerman, for shortly 
before the caravan started we descried a long line of Par- 
see women approaching her through the garden, looking 
curiously nun-like in their sombre chaddars as they shuffled 
silently in her direction with offerings of cucumbers. Gravely 
taking them, she presented one to me with the same 
solemnity of manner which had so impressed me when, on 
the occasion of entering my service, she had begged my 
acceptance of a wizened little orange. 

The office of treasurer on this tour devolved on me, and,, 
as neither gold nor notes were in circulation at Kerman, I 
was compelled to take all the money we needed in one or 
two-kran pieces. The kran is a silver coin worth fourpence 
halfpenny, rather larger than our sixpence, and considerably 
thicker, while the two-kran piece is somewhat smaller than 
an English florin. 

Our caravan started for the village of Ismailabad at ten 
o'clock, and we followed in the afternoon, our road lying 
over a sterile desert, crossed at intervals by chains of high 
sand-dunes, which were constantly being shifted by the wind. 

A fifteen-mile ride brought us to our destination, and trot- 
ting up an avenue of fine plane-trees, we were received by 
the village dignitaries, who escorted us to the large garden 
belonging to my brother's friend, the son of the Vakil-i- 
Mulk. We strolled among the vines and pomegranates till 
dinner, and mounting to the roof of a little pavilion, styled 
the Kolah Feringhee (English hat, from a fanciful resem- 
blance to that article), we stood for some time admiring the 
beautiful effect produced by the sun setting on the Jupa 
Range, to which the long avenues of cypresses and plane- 
trees, with brightly coloured orioles and blue jays flitting 
among them, formed a charming foreground. 

11 



146 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

We left Ismailabad the following afternoon, and as we 
issued from the gateway we found a large crowd of Parsee 
women assembled to speed us on our way, and to avert the 
evil eye from our path. Their manner of compassing this 
latter was somewhat novel to me. On a large brass tray a 
mirror and some burning scented herb had been placed, and 
as we were about to mount, one of the women advanced and 
held the tray towards us, thus securing us from all danger on 
the road. 

We were now over a thousand feet higher than Kerman, 
and felt our spirits rise at having left the heat behind us ; 
but when we reached the small courtyard where we were to 
pass the night I was surprised not to see " Di," who had 
preceded us with the caravan, rushing out to greet me, and 
on hurrying inside to discover what could be the matter I 
found her lying strangely stiff and still in a corner, and the 
sad truth flashed upon me that she must be dead, all our 
efforts to revive her being in vain. The servants declared 
that she had been carried the whole way, and had been fed, 
but that directly on arrival she lay down, apparently very tired, 
and, to their surprise, died. I felt bitterly that if we had 
reached our destination even half an hour earlier my poor 
dog's life might have been saved, and I could not bear to 
think of her dying all alone without a friend near her. We 
fancied that she might have been stung by a snake, but what- 
ever it was, I lost a most faithful and loving companion, and 
it took me many a long day to get over her death. 

On going to bed that night I found on the wall of my 
room, which looked as if it had not been swept for years, a 
large yellow scorpion. My conscience reproved me for not 
capturing it, but as my net and lethal bottle were packed up, 
the fear that it might escape while I was getting them, and 
visit me during the night conquered my passion for collect- 
ing, and I hastily called my brother, who demolished it with 
a boot. 

We had now left the fine Jupa Range behind us, and were 
making our way towards the snowy Lalazar Mountains, while 
to our left the pyramid-like peak of Kuh-i-Hazar was the 



OUR ST A Y IN THE HILLS 147 

great feature of the landscape, as it sprang up to the im- 
posing height of 14,000 feet. We had exchanged the plains 
for the hill country, and the scenery was daily becoming 
more beautiful. 

On one of our marches we passed through a deep gorge, 
on both sides of which shale cliffs rose magnificently, their 
base washed by a rippling stream bordered with tamarisk 
and sweetbriar, and we lay under the willows and drank glass 
after glass of the delicious water, watching the delicate, blue 
dragon-flies skim over the rivulet, before we climbed to the 
top of the gorge and crossed a pass in the hills vivid with 
most brilliant colours. 

Travelling seemed to agree with the horses, who became 
livelier and stronger day by day. When " Cotmore," the 
water, my brother's mount, and my Arab " Nawab " were not 
on duty they accompanied the caravan. On such occasions 
they were not led, but trotted in the rear, cropping the scanty 
herbage where it could be found, an imperative bea (come) from 
the grooms being sufficient to bring them up if they lagged 
behind. My brother used occasionally, when it was " Cot- 
more's " turn to be ridden, to dismount and walk, the sagacious 
horse following him, halting if told to do so, and standing 
quite still until called to come on. On approaching the 
camp my brother would often say, " Go to your syce'' 
whereupon the intelligent creature would trot off slowly to 
find his friend, neighing to apprise him of his arrival. 
Sometimes when lunching on the march " Cotmore " and 
" Nawab " would stand over us as we sat on our carpet, and 
eat bits from our fingers, behaving with the utmost propriety, 
their hoofs never infringing on our domain, eager for food 
though they were. 

On June 18th we reached the large village of Lalazar 
(place of tulips) entirely hidden from view by groves of tall 
poplars, and we camped outside on great mud platforms, 
specially erected for that purpose, close to a stream, by a 
former Governor of Kerman. 

It was an ideal halting-place, as the village was situated in 
a long, grassy valley resplendent with flowers. The air was 



148 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

scented with the perfume of sweetbriar and peppermint, an 
odd combination ; the euphorbiacce grew in sheets of vivid 
yellow, varied with pink patches of lousewort, while the 
lavender, sage, camomile, daisy, celandine, and a little con- 
volvulus were in full bloom with many another flower. This 
charming spot was unfortunately too distant from the hills, 
where my brother hoped to have some sport, and he left at 
daybreak next morning in search of a good camping ground, 
sending the syce back about ten o'clock with a message to 
say that he had found a suitable place, and that I was to 
follow as soon as possible. 

From the day on which we left Kerman there had been 
a certain amount of friction between our servants and the 
muleteers, which was caused by the indescribable laziness 
of the former, who, not content with declining to afford any 
assistance in the loading up of our personal baggage, in- 
variably forced the muleteers to undertake the loading of the 
mules which had been provided for their use. The katirchis, 
not unnaturally, objected, but fearing to make my brother 
angry, hath hitherto refrained from open revolt. On this 
particular morning the storm burst, and servants and mule- 
teers rushed at one another in a free fight, and for my part 
I felt extremely annoyed to think that they were profiting by 
my brother's absence to pay off old scores. They stopped, 
however, when I appeared and spoke to them ; but the 
baggage had already been torn from the mules, and the 
muleteers, throwing themselves on the ground, refused to 
replace it. 

I remonstrated with the head-man, who got up and began 
to reload ; but just as matters were getting quiet Hashim 
nearly reopened the whole business by striking one of the 
muleteers, and was so beside himself with rage that it needed 
all my limited command of the language to restrain him. 

As soon as order had been quite restored we set off for the 
new camp, and found that our road followed up the course of 
the Lalazar River, crossing and recrossing it, as the hills, 
running sheer down to the water's edge, rendered further 
progress impossible, now on the right bank and now on 



OUR ST A Y IN THE HILLS 149 

the left, and the river became, as we advanced, a brawling 
torrent, the mossy banks of which were bespangled with 
orchises, white clover, primulas, and other small flowers. 

The vegetation became scantier and scantier, and we found 
our tents pitched on a broad slope at the foot of the mountains, 
which the huntsmen affirmed were well stocked with game. 
We were at a height of 1 1 ,000 feet, and our camp was the 
solitary dry spot in an extensive morass of boggy turf, 
our drinking-water being drawn from a tiny stream which 
trickled from the snow lying in large patches on the bare 
and mean-looking hills, and had the usual attributes of snow- 
water, being designated by the Persians as zangin (heavy). 
There was nothing pretty near the camp for me to sketch, 
and as the innumerable stones, which completely covered the 
ground, precluded all possibility of riding, the horses were 
sent back to the village of Lalazar. 

My brother was in the habit of starting at daybreak, and 
often did not return for ten and sometimes twelve hours, and 
invariably came back completely tired out. I hoped to have 
accompanied him occasionally on his shooting trips ; but I 
gasped so much and experienced such an odd feeling of 
suffocation whenever I attempted to go uphill, that I was 
forced to abandon the idea. The air was evidently too 
bracing and the height too great for me, and I felt drained 
of all energy, even the slight exertion of rising in the morning 
making me pant. 

My brother bagged three or four moufflon after a week of 
hard work, and they made a most welcome addition to our 
larder, which his friend, Rustem Khan, of Rahbur, supple- 
mented with gifts of cheese, cherries, unripe plums, sour 
grapes, lambs, and the most delicious honey. 

It was a land of thorns, and I always returned from my 
strolls near the camp with my dress torn and my shoes 
pierced. They were most deceptive plants, often a mass of 
pink and mauve blossoms, while one species looked so mossy 
and comfortable that it seemed made expressly for sitting 
upon, and was called by the Persians " Turban of the head 
mollah" I can speak from experience of their sharpness, for 



150 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

on slipping once on the hillside I fell right on to one of these 
cushions, and its bristles remained in my flesh for some days. 
Bargi gave some trouble on our arrival in camp. It 
appeared that she had represented to the head muleteer that 
she had received neither food nor wages since entering my 
service, and had so worked upon the man's feelings that he 
had fed her from the day we left Kerman. Hashim and 
Shah Sowar, who had discovered this, came in considerable 
excitement to tell me, saying that probably Bargi' s behaviour 
would give the Consulate a bad name in the Bazaar, Persian 
servants having an intense dread of any adverse report being 
spread about them or their masters. News was brought 
meanwhile that the subject under discussion had taken 
French leave, and was already on her way to distant Kerman, 
and although I did not believe my informant at first, yet on 
emerging from my tent I saw BargVs gaily dressed little figure 
at some distance down the valley. She turned a deaf ear to 
all shouting, refused to return with one of the muleteers sent 
after her, and I became seriously alarmed when finally she 
disappeared from sight. A couple of the servants, mounted 
on mules, succeeded, however, in restoring my errant hand- 
maid to me, who, on being questioned as to the reason of her 
escapade, wept like a very Niobe, affirming with vehemence 
that she had only been taking a little evening stroll, a state- 
ment open to considerable doubt. After this she spent her 
days in washing clothes in the stream, and so much in love 
was she with this occupation that she paid no attention to 
the darning and mending I gave her to do, replying with a 
smile when I reproved her, " Furda inshallah" (To-morrow, 
please Allah !), or remarking that she was too much busied 
with the garments of the servants to attend to my work. It 
needed the threat of fining her on each occasion that she left 
my tasks undone for theirs to convince her that her mistress 
had prior claims on her time. At Lalazar I missed my poor 
" Di " more than ever, as Bargi was a most unsatisfactory com- 
panion on my walks, her progress, partly owing to her heelless 
slippers, being of the slowest, so that I soon had to dispense 
with her services. 



OUR STA Y IN THE HILLS 151 

On the last night of our stay in camp the shikarchis (hunts- 
men) gave us a display of what they called atish barzi, or 
fireworks, setting light to the abundant scrub on the castel- 
lated crest of a hill close to our camp. The scene reminded 
me of descriptions I had read of the sack of some old baronial 
stronghold. The sheets of flame shooting up into the dark- 
ness, the rolling masses of smoke, and the crowd of silhouetted 
figures rushing wildly around the keep-like summit, all 
fostered the illusion, while the air was heavy with the aro- 
matic scent of the burning sage and thyme. 

It was with no regret that I left camp next day on a 
morning so raw and chilly that we sat huddled up in big 
capes while eating our breakfast, and, at the same time were 
forced to wear blue spectacles to save our eyes from the 
strong glare of the sun. Abu, our cook, sported a huge 
newspaper shade which, sticking out from under his felt 
skull-cap, gave him a very comic appearance. Like all 
Persian servants he was keenly sensitive about his looks, 
and scanned my face narrowly as he placed a dish of 
eggs on the table. Involuntarily my lips twitched slightly 
as the queer apparition met my gaze, and in a twinkling the 
shade was torn off, and Abu turned away so crestfallen that 
I did my utmost to soothe his ruffled feelings by remarking 
that such an excellent protection against the sun had better 
be replaced by another as soon as possible. He followed my 
advice without loss of time, and I had the satisfaction of 
seeing him set off on the march with a huger shade than ever 
flapping over his eyes. 

It was during this tour in the hills that Seyid Abu took to 
doctoring on his own account. He treated one poor woman, 
who was afflicted with sore eyes, by rubbing some of our 
boot-blacking upon her inflamed lids, and she presented him 
with a kid by way of fee for his skilful tendance ! 

Our horses, which had had a week's holiday with no stint 
in the commissariat department, were beside themselves with 
excitement, and my little grey was as one possessed, squeal- 
ing, trying to attack the strange horses of the shikarchis, 
leaping recklessly down all the bad places, bucking and 



152 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

kicking up. At last, however, his foes were left behind, and 
we turned up a long valley down which a broad stream 
dashed over and between great boulders. On the hills the 
lofty assafcetida was growing some four to six feet in height, 
its thick stems springing up from the cluster of serrated 
leaves at its base and terminating in big yellow flower-heads, 
which I have heard compared to cauliflowers in appearance ; 
the tall spires of mullein were in full bloom, while large bronze 
dragon-flies darted over the water in myriads. Our new 
camp was pitched in a bend of the winding defile under 
clumps of willows, and was a charming spot, shut in on one 
side by the river and surrounded by picturesque peaks which 
I did my best to copy with pencil and brush. To reach 
the road up the valley we had to wade across the stream, 
which was somewhat of an undertaking as the current was 
rapid. 

We were five hundred feet lower than at our last camp, 
and I found to my great satisfaction that I could clamber 
about the huge iron-grey boulders strewing the hills without 
much fatigue, collecting among them vivid green and yellow 
spiders, exactly matching the plants on which they lived, 
and curious leaping black spiders having an appendage much 
like whiskers. Although our camp was at an altitude of 
10,500 feet, yet we were much bothered with flies in our 
tents, these pertinacious insects never ceasing to tease during 
the day, and commencing their work of torment at an 
unconscionably early hour in the morning, while in the 
evenings we were haunted by small buff tarantulas, which 
gave alarmingly long jumps when we tried to catch them. 

During our stay in this valley we made an expedition to 
ascend Kuh-i-Shah, one of the highest peaks in Southern 
Persia, being 13,700 feet in altitude. 

As we were able to ride part of the way, the climb was by 
no means arduous, although we made an early start from our 
camp, for the road was a difficult one, huge boulders blocking 
up the track at intervals, rendering it necessary to cross and 
recross the torrent to avoid them. At one place we were 
obliged to rush our horses up a veritable wall of rock, a feat 



OUR STA V IN THE HILLS 153 

that only animals accustomed to the hills could have per- 
formed successfully. Two broad snow bridges at the head of 
the valley had to be traversed, but at that early hour they 
were hard and firm, although on our return after the heat of 
the day they became perilously soft, and our horses' hoofs 
plunged so deeply into them that a speedy descent into the 
stream below, which flowed out from beneath them, seemed 
not improbable. 

On the top of the snow-clad peak was a primitive shrine, 
consisting of a circle of rough boulders, a flat stone in the 
centre being covered with an odd collection of offerings : 
there were amber and agate beads, glass and copper bangles, 
various coins (among which lay a Queen Victoria token of 
1837), and many scraps of iron and bits of clothing. This 
shrine was visited in honour of a certain saint called Haider, 
who was said to cause explosions here during the summer 
months, the name Kuh-i-Shah, meaning Mount of the 
Saint, the title Shah, in Persia, being applied to a holy man 
as well as to the sovereign. The view was magnificent, the 
Jupa and Jamal Bariz ranges, great Kuh-i-Hazar, and many 
another peak, standing up well defined against a pure, blue 
sky, the atmosphere being so clear that we enjoyed a moun- 
tain panorama some eighty miles in extent. On our return 
to camp at sunset a wonderful crimson glow shone over 
everything. The whole sky seemed to be a quivering mauve, 
fit background for the rosy mountains ; while every tree and 
stone and plant had apparently undergone transformation 
into something strange and exquisite, the very foam on the 
swirling stream being dyed red as blood. It was a scene 
of enchantment such as I have never seen, even in Persia, 
where the sunsets are so grand, and was an appropriate finale 
to our stay in the pretty camp by the Lalazar River. 



CHAPTER XII 

IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 

WE were now to leave the pleasant hills, with their 
running streams, twisted willows, and perfumed 
sweetbriar, and descend to Rahbur, the only village of 
any importance in this district, situated on a hot plain too 
stony for riding out of a foot's pace. 

Our way lay along a narrow track on the side of a range of 
hills, an unpleasant road, as it overhung a precipice for the 
most part, and at specially bad bits we had to dismount and 
lead our horses. My grey, " Charters," an animal of much 
character, always picked the best path, and if I tried to force 
him along one not of his own choosing, he would resolutely 
refuse to follow me, planting his feet firmly and looking the 
picture of obstinacy until I gave in to him. 

Yet, in spite of all his common sense, he and I nearly came 
to a bad end on this particular ride. My brother was some 
distance ahead of me when my horse, starting violently and 
snorting, declined to proceed, and at a touch from my whip 
twisted round on the narrow path, and all but slipped over 
the abyss. His struggles and the long ride had loosened my 
saddle-girths, and I had some difficulty in getting free of 
the pommels, which slipped down with my weight. Once 
dismounted, I dragged my horse back to terra firma, and, 
looking about to see what had alarmed him, espied a dead 
and malodorous partridge lying not far from us on the track. 
I managed to reach the bird with my whip and push it over 
the edge, but " Charters " would not be pacified, and did his 
best to break from me, trembling violently, and I alarmed 

154 




NOMAD WOMEN. 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 155 

him still more by putting a handful of dust into his mouth, 
having read somewhere that this was an infallible remedy if 
a horse were frightened ! By this time, however, my brother 
had come to my rescue, and by dint of much patting and 
coaxing we got him past the fatal spot, and soon reached 
our halting-place for the night in a wide valley with a group 
of black nomad tents at one end. 

Meshtedi Medhi, one of the leading merchants of Kerman, 
who was on a business tour, here made his appearance, and 
accompanied us for a few days. He was a British subject, 
being of Indian extraction, and looked quite an imposing 
figure, his long black robes set off by a snowy beard and 
moustache, white turban and girdle, while he bestrode a jet- 
black steed, and held a white umbrella, lined with black, over 
his head. He conducted us next day to a grove of fine 
walnut-trees outside Rahbur, where we lunched, chiefly off 
several kinds of fruit, and inspected the carpet-making done 
by the nomad women. It was carried on in one of their 
curious tents, which had a large piece of black felt stretched 
over a pole to form the roof, three sides being enclosed with 
a fine twig matting, while the fourth, and a space between 
the sides and the roof, were left open to facilitate the escape 
of the smoke of the large fires usually burning in these 
shelters. 

Several rather handsome women were in this tent, un- 
veiled, as is customary among nomads, but covered from 
head to foot in bright cotton sheets, and wearing a profusion 
of glass and bead bangles, with strings of silver coins to set 
off their black hair. They were naturally much interested 
in the first European woman they had ever seen, and giggled 
a great deal as they stared at me, evidently picking me well 
to pieces in their whispered comments to one another. The 
carpets being woven were, alas, of a hideous European 
pattern, the familiar one of scarlet roses on a black ground, 
which may be seen in any cottage parlour in England, and 
as they were of very fine texture, their manufacture was 
exceedingly slow. Threads of twine were stretched tightly, 
close together and several deep, across a frame, and on to 



156 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

these the wool was worked with a steel-toothed comb, two 
women sitting at each carpet, weaving from the sides and 
meeting in the middle. They knew the pattern by heart, 
and every few moments a hank of wool of a fresh colour had 
to be used, as the design progressed imperceptibly, although 
the women worked with incredible speed. 

The usual istakbal, a small body of horsemen in this case, 
was in readiness to escort us to the tree-embowered village 
of Rah bur. Mehdi pointed out one of these cavaliers as 
being deeply in his debt, and related how the man had been 
near death with fever three or four days ago, and his relatives, 
thinking that his last hour had come, had turned his feet 
towards Kerbelah in readiness for his departure. At this 
crisis Mehdi had arrived, and, seeing with horror that his 
debtor was apparently slipping from his clutches, he em- 
ployed his smattering of European doctoring to such good 
effect that he restored him to life again ! 

Our quarters were in a tumble-down pavilion in a garden 
of apricot, cherry, and plum-trees, but I had my tent pitched, 
as I did not fancy the dark, unplastered rooms, the twig- 
stuffed ceilings of which appeared to me only too good 
harbourage for scorpions and tarantulas. I was installed, 
therefore, under a big walnut-tree, which we were told had 
been visited by bears the night before in search of the fruit, 
walnuts being, according to Persians, Bruin's favourite dainty. 
The fine walnut-trees in this part of the country grow huge 
excrescences, which are used in Europe for veneering, so 
beautiful is the grain of the wood ; and shortly before our 
visit an Armenian merchant had penetrated to this remote 
district to purchase them from the inhabitants. 

The wives of one of the principal Khans sent a message 
saying they would like to call upon me, and I was nothing 
loth to be " tashrif dared" or "at home," as I was always much 
interested in Eastern women and their restricted lives. 
Hashim did his best to lay out an elegant tea-table, although 
I had but little variety in the way of cakes and biscuits, and 
came to me later on to inform me that a great company of 
ladies and slaves was approaching, and that he was quite 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 157 

sure the room would be too small to hold them all. 1 confess 
to having felt a little nervous at this news, but ordered my 
pishkidmet to see that the coast was clear of our men-servants, 
and, when my guests arrived, was relieved to find that only 
three ladies appeared with a few children, five women slaves, 
and two youths — these latter to guard the door of the room and 
the slippers which their mistresses had left there on entering. 

I received the ladies with many a * kkosh atnadid" (you 
are welcome) and other polite expressions culled from my 
phrase-book, accepted with effusion their gift of a sour green 
apple, and ushered them to their seats at the table, while the 
slaves squatted on the floor, holding the pallid, sickly-looking 
children in their arms. Bargi served out tea in tiny glasses, 
putting four or five lumps of sugar into each, and helped on 
the conversation by giving a short biography of her mistress, 
expatiating largely on my accomplishments of riding and 
letting off a gun. They drank glass after glass of steaming 
tea-syrup — all Persians liking to swallow the beverage when 
almost boiling — and they sampled my European delicacies 
with much relish. 

I thanked them for a present of saddle-bags, made of the 
famous Rahbur carpet, and had to explain to them that 
unfortunately the gifts I hoped that they would accept in 
return were at Kerman, but that I would deliver them over 
to their husband when he made his next visit to the city to 
pay his respects to the Farman Farma, who was shortly 
expected as Governor. 

They answered with much politeness that the poor trifles 
they had brought me were unworthy of further notice, and 
thereupon produced various engraved seals, which they had 
knotted up in corners of their handkerchiefs. These were 
made of agate or cornelian, and were inscribed with Kufic 
characters, animals, and, in a few cases, with figures, some of 
them being beautiful little works of art, and all dug up from 
the ruins of a certain buried city, mentioned by Marco Polo, 
near which the ladies dwelt during the winter months. My 
brother, who had visited this place on a previous journey 
through Persia, had told their husband, the Governor, how 



158 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

much he was interested in curios, and that he would be glad 
to have anything found among the debris of what was once 
apparently an important town. 

So eager did the ladies become, when they saw how much 
I appreciated the seals, that they insisted on giving me some 
set as rings, which they were wearing, and even tore off 
others stitched on to the caps of their children in quite a 
frenzy of enthusiasm, until I felt ashamed of robbing them 
in such wholesale fashion, although as a matter of fact their 
gifts were of no intrinsic value. 

The three wives were loaded with bangles, rings, and neck- 
laces, and when they threw back their gaudy cotton sheets 
they disclosed handsome velvet jackets, and enormously 
stiffened-out trousers, which did not reach to the knee, well 
above which coarse white stockings were drawn. During 
the intervals of conversation they puffed at kalians, served 
to them by the youths at the door, and professed to be much 
concerned that I did not participate in what to them was 
evidently an intense pleasure. 

The children, who cried a good deal, were given tea and 
cakes to pacify them, and their respective mothers took them 
every now and then from the slaves to show them off to me, 
but got tired very soon of holding their treasures. 

As is customary, the slaves entered largely into the con- 
versation, drank tea like their mistresses, but were obviously 
somewhat suspicious of my eatables, and when I produced a 
bundle of illustrated papers they crowded round to see the 
show. This exhibition was a somewhat embarrassing one 
for me, as whenever, in turning over the leaves, I chanced 
upon any female figure, they would regard it fixedly, and 
then stare at me, as if comparing me feature by feature with 
the picture, and would cover me with confusion by bursting 
out into a sort of chorus, " She is beautiful, but you, you are 
far lovelier ! " As they did this without the least discrimina- 
tion, it was impossible to feel greatly flattered ; but I could 
not help wondering whether they expected me to pay them 
compliments in return ! 

By and by the chief wife began to sigh and groan a good 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO . 159 

deal, and I was forced, in very politeness, to ask what was 
the matter with her. My inquiries having elicited that her 
ailment was a very simple one, I opened the medicine-chest 
with much ceremony, and delighted her with a gift of pills. 
Straightway the third wife started a most curious complaint, 
affirming that whenever she smelt a flower or a fruit terrible 
pains would run through her whole body. This remarkable 
malady was entirely beyond my small skill, and I firmly 
declined to cope with it, putting away the medicines some- 
what hastily as the slaves showed signs of wishing to be 
doctored for that universal, but somewhat vague complaint 
entitled dard-i-dil (heartache). 

I now began to wonder when my guests would take their 
departure, for the two hours of their visit had completely 
exhausted all the ideas that I could express in Persian. 
Conversation was flagging lamentably when Bargi appeared, 
and with her most engaging smile remarked to the assembled 
company that the Sahib was just coming. 

This announcement caused a general stampede : the cotton 
sheets were hastily adjusted, slippers put on, children and 
kalians snatched up, and with warm handshakes and " khoda 
haftz-i-shurnas " (goodbyes), my visitors and their train went 
off in a great hurry. As soon as they were gone Hashim 
came in to clear away, and being surprised at not seeing my 
brother, who had been calling on the Governor of Rahbur, I 
asked my waiter where he was. Hashim giggled, and became 
much confused, but finally confessed that, thinking my guests 
had stayed quite long enough, he had hit upon this means 
of sending them away. I felt that I ought to reprove him 
for conduct, which in a European servant would have been 
most reprehensible, but could only feel grateful to him for 
having relieved me of the thirteen or fourteen persons who 
had crowded into my small room ! 

We were not sorry to leave the hot, stony plain on which 
Rahbur stands, and return to the hills, crossing one of the 
branches of the Halil Rud River, and leading our horses 
up and down some such steep places that on one occasion I 
remember that " Charters " slid right down upon me, knock- 



160 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ing my feet slightly with his hoofs before he could recover 
himself. We had now reached the little-known region of 
Sardu (traversed by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century), and 
that night we halted on a grassy upland near a big nomad 
encampment, the women in blue cotton jackets and skirts 
pleated as fully as kilts, their heads bound up in white wraps, 
coming out to survey us, accompanied by children dressed in 
defiance of all hygienic principles, their only garments being 
a scanty jacket open in the front, and trousers fastened below 
the hips. This is the usual costume of juveniles in Persia, and 
as it is unchanged during the rigours of winter, must have 
a good deal to do with the great mortality among Persian 
children. The men were far better clad, as they supplemented 
their cotton clothes with home-woven woollen wraps in black 
and red and blue and red checks, which they draped over 
their shoulders in the manner of a Highland plaid. 

A light breeze was blowing, which soon after our arrival 
wafted a small swarm of big cockchafers over our tents. 
The whiteness of the canvas evidently attracted them, for 
they descended promptly and invaded us, booming about 
with long, feathery feelers, and crawling over tables and 
chairs, even creeping into our bedding in a most unpleasant 
way. It took a good deal of trouble to get rid of them, and 
our experiences with insects were not over with this episode, 
for after dinner a yellow scorpion was discovered sitting 
confidingly on my brother's knee, in such a position that it 
was a wonder that he did not lay his hand upon it ! 

Late that evening the nomad men sat in a crowd outside 
their encampment, and kept us all awake by celebrating 
Moharrum (the month in which Hussein and his family were 
martyred on the plain of Kerbelah) with a religious song, to 
the accompaniment of beats on the ground, when they came 
to the frequent chorus of " Hussein ! Hassan ! Hussein ! " 
The tune was weird and melancholy, with the monotony 
inseparable from Oriental music, and all joined in it with 
much fervour, thudding vehemently at the end of each verse. 
Directly it was over one of their number turned the whole 
thing into ridicule, and the crowd roared with laughter at the 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 161 

parody on the sufferings of the martyrs, whose fate they had 
just been lamenting with religious zeal. This episode re- 
minded us of the Miracle Plays in the Middle Ages, when 
the spectators would weep one moment as the mysteries of 
their Faith were presented to them, and at the next would 
break into peals of merriment as the Devil, playing the part 
of a buffoon, was brought upon the stage. 

On leaving this camp we had the first rain that we had ex- 
perienced for months, coming down in a heavy deluge, soaking 
us all to the skin, and making our horses look but sorry 
objects. We were passing through a rich upland, gleaming 
with long stretches of ripe corn and barley, and with plenty 
of water and willows. Flocks and herds were grazing on the 
fresh grass, the cows being handsome humped creatures, 
while a river rushed along a deep gorge near a picturesque 
little domed shrine. This district was one of the breeding 
grounds for horses which supply Kerman, and we had some 
trouble in crossing a valley where many mares were feeding, 
as " Nawab," free as usual, joined them with head and tail 
erect, looking as handsome as I ever saw him. My brother 
turned back to assist in his capture, which was not an easy 
matter, as he was unhaltered, and they had to grasp him 
by his floating mane or forelock. It was a scene of wild 
confusion. Grooms, muleteers, servants and nomads all 
joined in the chase, shouting and yelling, while the kicking, 
stampeding, neighing, and squealing were so infectious that it 
was all I could do to keep " Charters " from joining in the 
fray otherwise than with loudly uplifted voice. 

Partridges swarmed in these hills, their cheerful note in the 
early morning and late in the afternoon resounding about 
our camp, the peculiar clucking call when feeding changing 
into a shrill whistle if they were disturbed. Their soft, brown- 
grey plumage, with its black and white markings on the 
wings, makes them almost indistinguishable from the 
boulders among which they live, so that my brother, when 
out shooting, invariably lost three or four birds, which 
dropped down wounded among the scrub and stones, where 
the most diligent searching failed to discover them. The 

12 



162 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

huntsman sometimes brought out a big, square screen made 
of many-coloured patches, holding it up before him to attract 
the partridges, which are excessively curious birds, and 
then shooting them as they approached his shelter to 
examine it. 

We halted for a few days near the steep pass of Dilfa, 
which we inspected with much interest, as it was crossed by 
Marco Polo on his journey to Kerman ; and it added to the 
interest on my part to feel that in all probability we were the 
first Europeans who had visited Sardu since the time of that 
illustrious traveller. 

One day when here we had a visit from seven nomad 
women, the principal ladies of their tribe, who brought us 
offerings of cheese and mast. They refused to take money 
in return, saying that they intended to see the Khartum, 
and would sit near our camp until I had interviewed them, 
even if I kept them waiting for days. So they were all 
ushered into the tent where we were sitting, fine-looking 
women for the most part with fresh complexions and beautiful 
eyes and teeth. They left their shoes at the door, and an old 
lady in white cotton garments, wearing many bead and 
amber bracelets and several turquoise rings, entered first, 
and sat, or rather squatted, well to the front. This personage 
demanded medicine for her eyes, which were inflamed, and 
accordingly I gave her a lotion for them; but she was not 
at all content with this, and pulled my skirt as she begged 
in the most insinuating manner for any and every kind of 
remedy, until my brother, yielding to her passion for drugs, 
gave her a few drops of chlorodyne on a lump of sugar to 
assuage her dard-i-dil, the only complaint she could muster, 
being in remarkably robust health. She retired at last with 
some Elliman's Embrocation to rub into an imaginary stiff 
shoulder, grumbling bitterly, saying that we had given her 
nothing at all, and beseeching us, up to the end, to be more 
liberal with the contents of our medicine-chest. The younger 
women acknowledged, to our surprise, that they were in the 
enjoyment of the best of health, and chatted away to us 
without ceremony about the details of their migratory exist- 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 163 

ence, until Shah Sowar came to lay the table and routed 
them mercilessly. 

But it was now time to say goodbye to these delightful 
uplands, for the Farman Farma was on his way to take up 
his governorship at Kerman, and we did not wish to be 
absent from the city when he arrived. We made our way 
therefore to Rayin, passing along the route once traversed 
by the great Venetian, the track winding through narrow 
valleys, in which we came upon the ruins of long-deserted 
caravanserais, and finally emerging on to the great Rayin 
Plain, giving us a glimpse of the large fort which dominates 
the town. We saw here the Kerman Desert, which stretches 
six hundred miles from Tun and Tabbas in the north to 
Bampur in the south, its golden sands looking quite alluring 
in the sunshine, and came across a party of pilgrims from 
Bashagird, bound for the sacred shrine at Meshed — a 
picturesque group in many-coloured garments, busily engaged 
in one of their five times of daily prayer. Some were stand- 
ing, others kneeling, others again bowing profoundly, yet 
one and all suspended operations to stare at us with much 
interest as we rode past them. 

Soldiers, attired in pea-green smocks, led us to our camp 
in Rayin, keeping off the curious populace and a crowd of 
hale and sturdy beggars, clad in garments of dubious white- 
ness. The huge fort, which used to contain the entire popu- 
lation, was in good repair, a rare thing in Persia, and in 
marked contrast to the castellated fragments of a second 
fortress, from the picturesque ruins of which trees were 
springing up. The little town was evidently prosperous : 
every house was embowered in fruit trees, the crops appeared 
to be excellent, and the people carried on the arts of glass- 
blowing, cutlery, and such-like, being quite an independent 
community. 

The beautiful mountains among which we had been 
travelling, the Sardu, Sarbizan, Kuh-i-Shah and Kuh-i-Hazar 
ranges, disappeared gradually as we left Rayin and struck the 
road to Abigarm, passing on our way a ruined serai, near 
which hot springs were oozing out of the ground, forming 



164 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

natural baths of which many people were availing themselves 
for skin complaints. At Abigarm we were assured that 
we were only four-and-twenty miles from Kerman, via 
Ismailabad, and the idea of being close to home so greatly 
excited our servants that the advance-guard set off at an 
unearthly hour next morning to get lunch ready for us at 
Ismailabad. My brother and I left before sunrise to make 
our way down into the great Kerman Plain, the three 
farsakhs supposed to lie between our camp and Ismailabad 
expanding into several as we proceeded on our way. At 
last, however, we thought we saw the blue dome of Jupa's 
shrine ahead of us, and rode over a ground thickly strewn 
with stones and small boulders towards it. 

As we got nearer my brother remarked that the village 
reminded him strongly of Mahun, and suddenly the truth 
flashed upon him that we were indeed there, and passing by 
the Farman Farma's garden, where he had stayed the year 
before with the Prince. 

We had a faint hope that our servants and muleteers might 
have had the sense to stop here, as, by going on to Ismail- 
abad, we should be at least six miles away from the direct 
road to Kerman. Naturally, however, they had displayed no 
such intelligence, and we pressed on over the stoniest of 
deserts, feeling exceedingly hungry after our twenty-five- 
mile ride, and very thankful to reach the Ismailabad garden, 
although no food of any kind was ready, our advance-guard 
having arrived only just before us. After a good rest we 
rode off again about four o'clock, our horses in the highest 
spirits as soon as they realised that they were going home, 
racing up and down the sand-dunes on the road as if they 
had done no work for a week. We steered our course 
towards the solitary great plane-tree, beneath which the little 
Hindoo colony was wont to burn its dead, and soon the 
ruined fortresses of old Kerman, which we had seen from the 
commencement of our ride, rose up close before us, and in a 
few moments we were at the gate of the Consulate. 

We had ridden thirty-nine miles, a long distance for me, as 
much of the going was very bad, but I forgot my fatigues in 



IN THE FOOTPRINTS OF MARCO POLO 165 

the pleasure of being at home once more, and although, just 
at first, the nights seemed hot and suffocating after the fresh 
hill air, yet the real heat was over, and we settled down again 
to our old life, well content. 



CHAPTER XIII 

OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 

ON July 20th, the day after we came home from our tour 
among the hills, the cannon of the city announced at an 
early hour that his Highness the Farman Farma was about 
to make his official entry into Kerman. We were much 
pleased at his arrival, as he and my brother were friends 
of over two years' standing, and he was considered to be 
the most civilised and enlightened of Persian princes. His 
home and property were at Tabriz, and his wife was the 
daughter of the Vali Ahd, 1 the heir-apparent to the throne, 
while he himself was cousin of the Shah. He was not accom- 
panied by his wife and family, and so lived as a bachelor at 
Kerman. 

When the Prince came to return my brother's call our 
servants were greatly excited, and pursued me all the 
morning to ask endless and often irrelevant questions 
concerning the serving of the tea, kalians, and sherbet, and 
the ceremonial to be observed on the occasion. I impressed 
on Hashim, however, that any inquiries on these points were 
to be made beforehand, as he had a habit, to which I strongly 
objected, of whispering confidentially to me in the presence of 
visitors. 

It was about five o'clock when his Highness arrived and 
came upstairs with his doctor, leaving his followers below. 
He was a short, slight man of about five-and-thirty, and wore 

1 Now the present Shah. 

166 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 167 

spectacles, being very near-sighted. He could speak French 
fluently, the acquisition of that language being one of the 
chief accomplishments of the Military College at Tehran, 
where he had been educated ; and I found him most chatty 
and agreeable. 

He was anxious that I should attend the dinner that he was 
giving to celebrate the Shah's birthday in a few days' time, 
but although I was assured that all the guests would be 
"most civilised," as he expressed it, my brother thought 
it better for me to decline the invitation, and I had to 
content myself with enjoying a distant view from my 
windows of the fireworks in the city square. I had many 
a dinner, however, with the Prince later on, and was surprised 
at finding that we had tables, chairs, linen, glass and crockery, 
all as in Europe, while the cookery was an excellent mixture 
of Feringhee and Persian dishes. 

Of all European languages French is undoubtedly the 
most in vogue among educated Persians. Its study was 
first encouraged by Fath Ali Shah, who, on the great 
occasion of his receiving a letter from the first Napoleon, 
was mortified to find that he had not a subject in the whole 
of his kingdom capable of translating the Emperor's message. 
To prevent the recurrence of a like catastrophe he sent a 
band of chosen youths to be educated in France, and French 
has ever since been spoken by a cultivated minority, the Shah 
himself being able to speak it with tolerable proficiency. 

Persians struck me often as much resembling Frenchmen 
in their love of compliments and courtly phrases, and by their 
mannerisms of talk and gesticulation ; and when they waxed 
eloquent about their feats of war and their prowess in the 
chase they would put the immortal Tartarin himself to the 
blush. I fancy that Parisians would, however, be considerably 
astonished were they to hear their language as spoken in 
the France of the Orient. French taught by Austrians to 
Persians must necessarily undergo remarkable changes as 
regards accent, and I met few Persians out of Tehran who 
had the slightest respect for gender. " II " was the only 
personal pronoun used, and as they seemed to imagine all 



i68 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

adjectives need only be used "in the masculine, it was often 
most confusing to follow a conversation. I have had to listen 
to long family histories in which wives, sisters, brothers, and 
a variety of other relations were all mixed up indiscriminately, 
the effort to understand who was who leaving my brain in 
a perfect whirl. 

While we were at Kerman the Prince began to learn 
English from a Gabre (Parsee) youth who had been to 
Bombay, and he and the doctor had daily lessons for some 
time ; but, finding they did not make the progress they 
expected, they got discouraged, and I fancy such phrases 
as " The cat sat on the mat " marked the highest point 
of proficiency that they managed to reach, although his 
Highness used to bring his reading-book when he came to 
dine with us, bursting out at intervals into fragmentary 
sentences from it for my edification. 

Fazl Ali Khan, an elderly gentleman in the Farman 
Farma's suite, was the great authority on English, as many 
years ago, at the age of nine, he had been sent for a short 
time to a school at Brighton. Another of his accomplish- 
ments was that of photography, and as his productions were 
almost professional in their excellence, I was very grateful for 
the hints he gave me freely when my camera arrived. With 
the exception of the Prince and his Deputy-Governor the 
Bejat, he was the only Persian I ever met who was really 
energetic. Like most of his compatriots who have been 
to Europe he was much discontented with his country and 
its institutions, and, amusing as his strictures on everything 
were, one always felt sorry that a man who could appreciate 
better things should be condemned to an existence for the 
most part so curiously aimless. When the " Photographer," as 
we called him, and the other members of the Prince's suite 
rode out with us, he alone could keep up on his knock-kneed 
old white horse, which came down with him frequently. Steed 
and rider would roll over together in the dust ; but the latter 
would scramble to his feet in a moment, shake himself and 
remount, remarking smilingly that his horse's qualities re- 
quired to be known to be appreciated. 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 169 

The Prince's doctor, whom we saw frequently, had been 
some five years in Paris studying medicine, and was a quiet, 
gentlemanly man. He was very kind-hearted, doctoring the 
poor free of charge, and was one of the few Orientals I came 
in contact with who had a regard for animals, and could not 
bear to see them suffer in any way. 

The Bejat-i-Mulk (Gaiety of the Empire), to whom I have 
referred before, was an enormously stout Persian, who acted 
as Deputy-Governor to the Prince, and was in some sort his 
jidus Achates, as he and his master had been bound together 
by interest and friendship for many years, and on more than 
one occasion the Prince owed much to the calm common sense 
of the Bejat, who had a truly British solidity about him. He 
greatly enjoyed tent-pegging, although it was almost a miracle 
how the small horse he rode did not succumb under his weight 
as he galloped it recklessly about. His great virtue in my 
eyes was that he could argue out any question intelligently, 
being able to concentrate his mind on the point at issue, and 
without making remarks at random as many of the others 
did. 

Among the other French-speaking members of the suite 
were Suleiman Mizza, a cousin of the Prince's, and Beough 
Khan. 

The first-named was the commander of the Prince's army, 
and was proud of being the only man in Persia who could 
" make a map," as he said. I was much impressed with 
this statement until I found that his productions were only 
tracings from English maps, the English names of the 
places being translated into Persian. 

Beough Khan, a delicate youth of about nineteen, was 
colonel of the artillery, and had a great admiration for 
Europeans and their doings, offering frequently to spend 
all his spare time at the Consulate — a proposal which did 
not meet with the warm acceptance that was anticipated. 
All of them were pleasant, and treated me with much 
courtesy, seeming to enjoy coming to us, and appreciating 
our European cooking, the wines and sauces in particular 
winning their warm approbation. They always came to the 



170 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

picnics we gave at different points of interest in the neigh- 
bourhood, although they considered the long rides to reach 
the spots fixed upon for lunch as a species of martyrdom. 

I must confess that after a time their company became 
somewhat wearisome. To find fresh subjects of discussion 
was my great difficulty. One could not (at least / could not) 
talk for ever about sport and horses, and it would have been 
contrary to all laws of Eastern etiquette to question them on 
their womankind, in whom I was deeply interested. Books 
were scarce at Kerman, and as they had not the vaguest idea 
of history, geography, or of the events that were even then 
passing in the world, I was often completely nonplussed in 
my attempts at conversation. 

I should have managed much better if I could have realised 
that they were but children mentally, and must be talked to 
as such. What they needed were facts from the "Child's 
Guide to Knowledge," or the " Rudiments of Geography " 
presented to them in an attractive guise. My brother was 
most successful in the way he conversed with them, provoking 
me, from pure envy, to compare him with the celebrated Mr. 
Barlow in " Sandford and Merton." 

Although I found these French-speaking Persians rather 
difficult to get on with, they were a great improvement on 
their fellow-countrymen of the old school, notwithstanding 
the Persian proverb regarding Europeanised Orientals : 
" There was a crow that wanted to walk like the partridges, 
but in imitating their gait he lost his own and could never 
copy theirs properly." 

My brother started weekly Gymkhanas as soon as we had 
settled down again at Kerman. A racecourse was marked 
out in the desert, a ground cleared for tent-pegging and 
lemon-cutting, a butt arranged for rifle-practice, and here 
the gentry of the neighbourhood were wont to assemble. 
They liked the friendly gatherings, with their accompaniments 
of tea and sherbet, but never attained to any great pitch 
of excellence in our sports, the majority of them being afraid 
of their horses. The only good performers were nomad 
chieftains, who, being capital horsemen, very soon mastered 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 171 

the art of tent-pegging, showing us, in return, some of their 
own sports, one of which was galloping past a handkerchief 
laid on the ground, and dropping a stick exactly on its centre — 
by no means such an easy feat as it sounds. The Prince did not 
altogether appreciate these gatherings, as he could do nothing 
with the tent-pegs, and his nearest approach to success was 
when his horse managed to knock over a peg with its hoof. 
So he persuaded my brother to attend his private sports 
every Friday, where he loved to fire at a mark, a Persian 
lamb's-wool kolah being frequently used as a target. Accord- 
ing to Persian ideas a Prince ought to do everything better 
than his inferiors, the result of this notion being that no 
one dares to surpass his royal master in any game or 
sport ; and it was distinctly noticeable how the weekly 
Gymkhana was improved by the absence of the Farman 
Farma. In fact, many of the competitors frankly told 
me that they never dared to do their best in an event for 
which his Highness had entered. 

Towards the end of September we had a race-meeting, 
which was the subject of conversation for weeks beforehand, 
and which kept me busy for several days preparing refresh- 
ments for the hundreds of guests expected. 

It was hoped that the gentry of Kerman would ride their 
own horses, but they were fertile in excuses, some considering 
that such a proceeding would be exceedingly lowering to 
their dignity, while others feared that they might fall off; 
and a proposal for a donkey race was immediately vetoed, as 
it would be the depth of degradation for a Persian Prince to 
be present at such a form of entertainment. Numerous were 
the jealousies as Nasrullah Khan entered the names of com- 
petitors on a list, every one appearing to consider that his 
name should precede every one else's. At last the great day 
arrived, and when I imagined that the races must be in full 
swing I ascended the roof of the Consulate to survey the 
course with my field-glasses, and was astonished at the 
swarms of spectators present. The Prince and his suite on 
horseback, the merchants and priests in turbans and on 
donkeys, the whole poorer population of the city, men and 



172 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

women alike, all had poured forth to see the show, a crowd 
of some thousands of souls. 

I heard afterwards that the Bejat's horse, ridden by his 
servant, had won the first prize, and the Prince's horse the 
second. The former was delighted with his victory, and 
going into one of the tents to have tea, he called a number of 
the gentry to him, presenting them with handfuls of sweet- 
meats in the joy of his heart. I fancy, however, that he was 
not quite so happy that evening, when the Prince visited him 
in the intimacy of his anderoon and admired his horse. The 
only possible answer to such a remark in the East is, "Pishkesk" 
(" It is at your service "), and the animal was transferred to the 
Farman Farma's stables the next morning. So universal is 
this custom that the Persians have a proverb which says : " If 
you possess a good horse it always becomes a gift ; " and I 
believe it went far in accounting for the small number of 
entries in the horse-races. Every one talked to us a good 
deal about the fine horses they possessed, but they were 
certainly shy about displaying their qualities in public, and 
confined themselves to trying their luck at shooting at a 
large mark, the practice being so bad that the winner only 
succeeded in scoring two hits out of seven shots. 

Altogether the Kerman races were most successful, 
although the Farman Farma gloomily prophesied a bread- 
riot and other disagreeable consequences from the assemblage 
of so many people. 

The only adverse criticism, however, came from a deputa- 
tion of priests, who called on his Highness to ask whether 
he was aware that the Consul, by enclosing part of Kerman 
Desert for a racecourse, had appropriated it on behalf of the 
English Government, Persian law ordaining that an enclosure 
belongs to the person who has made it. They were, how- 
ever, pacified when the Prince assured them that the work 
had been performed by his own general and soldiers, and we 
laughed a good deal over the joke. 

The Farman Farma usually spent a few days every month 
at his beautiful garden of Mahun, some twenty miles from 
the city, and on these occasions he always sent us a pressing 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 173 

invitation to be his guests, and we would pitch our tents 
outside his garden, there not being enough accommodation 
inside his grounds for all of us. 

I will give an account of one such visit, which will stand 
for them all. We started off early one afternoon in August, 
the servants, tents, &c, having been sent on, and rode through 
the gap in the hills out on to a great sandy desert, the mono- 
tony of which is only broken by a small mud- tea-house, 
erected close to the one solitary spring for miles round. 
Here we halted for afternoon tea, and, after watering our 
horses, rode on ; while across the desert, columns of sand, 
dark at their base with swirling dust, rose into fantastic 
shapes as the light wind drove them in circles upwards. 
These j'znns, as the Persians call them, occasionally ap- 
proached us at such a pace that we were forced to gallop 
our horses to avoid them. 

In the distance we saw the bright blue dome and tall 
minarets of Mahun's famous shrine, and as we neared the 
village the setting sun bathed the eastern hills in a rosy glow 
with long, purple shadows, while the gardens clustering round 
the dome seemed enveloped in a golden haze. 

Shah Niamatullah, to whose memory this beautiful shrine 
was built, was a notable personage in his day. An Indian 
dervish, born in the year 730 of the Hejreh, he is supposed 
to have prophesied that the English rule in India would 
cease in 1857. Mrs. Steel in her book "On the Face of the 
Waters," renders the prophecy thus into rhyme: — 

" Fire-worship for a hundred years, 
A century of Christ and tears, 
Then the true God shall come again, 
And every infidel be slain." 

And the Mutiny has been attributed partly to this jingle 
which was on the lips of every native at the time. Be that 
as it may, the fame of the saint was spread far and wide ; 
for on one occasion, being specially warned not to land on a 
certain island infested with lions, he went there straightway, 
saying his fate lay in the hands of Allah. Events proved his 



174 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

faith to be well founded. The lions rushed in a body to 
greet him with many an uncouth salaam as he stepped on 
shore, killed a gazelle to feast their guest, and collected wood 
wherewith to roast it. As neither Shah Niamatullah nor the 
lions were provided with matches, the intelligent animals lay 
huddled up close together on the brushwood, until the heat 
of their bodies set it on fire, after which process the gazelle 
was cooked to a turn ! Many people, hearing of these 
marvellous experiences, tried to visit a spot where the lions 
served man so well, but from that day it was never seen 
again by mortal eyes. 

Some time after this episode the saint made his way to 
Persia, where he was received with great honour at Court, 
and consulted on all matters of State. Splendid presents 
were sent to him from Indian princes on which the Custom 
House officials of that day tried to levy duty, but were forced 
to desist, public opinion holding that they were outraging the 
holy man by such devices. 

Hundreds of enthusiastic followers aspired to become his 
disciples, following his example of dispensing with their 
clothing, as they affirmed that they were perfectly warm in 
the coldest weather if in the presence of the Master. And 
at last, full of years and honours, he ended his days at 
Mahun, at the ripe age of one hundred and four, the great 
Shah Abbas erecting a sepulchre above his remains to keep 
his memory green. 

The predecessor of the present Shah J built the graceful 
blue-domed shrine, which is such a prominent feature in the 
Mahun landscape ; and this brings to the mind another of 
Shah Niamatullah's prophecies, to the effect that the last 
Shah of Persia would be called Nasr-ed-Deen and that his 
reign would only last five years, and as the name is an 
uncommon one, the prophecy is very generally applied to 
the present Shah. Perhaps the best known of his prog- 
nostications, and one which is very frequently quoted in 
Persia, is that which concerns the fate of three of her principal 

1 Now the late Shah. 




COURTYARD OF THE MOSQUE OF MAHUX. 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 175 

cities. It runs thus : " Isfahan will be destroyed by water, 
Yezd by sand, and Kerman by the hoofs of horses." 

When we had left the pretty village behind us, an exceed- 
ingly stony three miles took us to the Prince's garden, above 
which we found our tents pitched by a stream, and in a 
moment he himself was with us, charming and courteous as 
usual, insisting on staying to dinner, his servants bringing 
the dishes to our tent. At Kerman his Highness never 
cared to come often to the Consulate, fearing the remarks of 
the mollahs and townspeople, but at Mahun he always felt 
free as air, and his spirits rose in proportion. 

Our conversation usually turned on England, which he 
ardently longed to visit, and on English customs ; and he 
discussed with us the best way of educating his eldest son 
in that happy land. During one of these conversations he 
told us that he intended to send to Tabriz for the boy, and 
if we returned to Europe vid Bombay, he would put us in 
charge of him. I remarked that it was not usual to send a 
boy of six to school, but the Prince waived aside all objec- 
tions by saying that he could live in our family during the 
three years before his regular school-work commenced ! 

On the day following our arrival his Highness invited us 
to accompany him partridge-shooting, and accordingly, at 
about half-past eight, we all started off across the boulder- 
strewn plain to the hills. The Prince rode a horse with a 
gold collar and embroidered saddle-cloth, his English Terai 
hat with its flowing puggree, being strikingly out of harmony 
with the trappings of his mount ; and he was followed by 
some hundreds of wild-looking retainers on horseback, clad 
in all kinds of flying-skirted coats, and carrying guns and 
heavy hunting-knives. 

We had hardly left the garden when his Highness's 
favourite servant, a handsome youth in a green silk coat, 
galloped up, calling out the magic word shikar, at which 
every one stopped, and the Prince, dismounting, cautiously 
approached the game. I was puzzled at seeing no partridges, 
and my surprise was not lessened when the Prince fired at a 
magpie, which flew off unharmed. 



176 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Our way led up stony valleys, along dry river-beds, and 
the Persians galloped their ponies over the rough ground 
with the greatest dash, men on horseback rushing full tilt 
up the low hills, riding along their summits and howling 
vigorously to frighten the partridges into the crowded valleys 
beneath. The unfortunate birds were flushed by mongrel 
pointers to be dropped at a few yards' distance by the eager 
sportsmen, while the falconers loosed their charges to swoop 
down upon any birds which might try to escape up the hill- 
sides. The Prince was greatly excited, and shouted orders 
and encouragement without ceasing. He would gallop half- 
way up a hill on his wiry horse, would dismount, fire, and 
remount, and gallop down again, a prominent figure on the 
steep slopes. It was an animated scene. Scores of horsemen 
raced helter-skelter in every direction, shouting in a frenzy 
of excitement, and so reckless was the firing on all sides 
that I was surprised that no casualties occurred. Soon after 
midday lunch was served in a garden of peach-trees, beside 
a running stream, the food being spread on a large carpet 
around which the Persians sat on their heels, bending for- 
ward nearly double as they ate, to the great detriment, I 
should imagine, of their digestions. 

They manipulated the various pillaus with much skill, 
rolling up balls of meat and rice between their fingers, 
and inserting them in their mouths. I was glad, however, 
that a few knives and forks, as well as chairs, had been 
thoughtfully provided for my brother and me, thus enabling 
us to enjoy the different dishes in comfort. We had a pro- 
fusion of grapes, melons, figs, and dates for dessert, and I 
tasted, for the first time, a sweetmeat called halwa y from 
Muscat, a compound of barley-jelly and chopped almonds. 
There was no wine, but throughout the meal big glasses of 
water, filled to the brim with masses of snow, were handed 
round. 

I observed that there was a certain amount of etiquette 
regarding our positions on the carpet. The post of honour 
next to the Prince was allotted to us, the doctor sat on the 
outer edge, while the Photographer humbly ate his meal on 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE A T KERMAN 177 

the grass, and young Beough Khan stood afar off, bowing. 
When the Prince retired, however, for a siesta to a small 
summer-house, the whole company came and seated them- 
selves without demur on the carpet, to entertain us until the 
return of our host. 

On the conclusion of the day's sport we accompanied the 
Farman Farma to his garden, and the view that here met my 
eyes enabled me dimly to realise the charm and glamour of 
those earthly Paradises of which I have read in tales of 
old romance, where the skies are eternally blue, the leaves 
and flowers never fade, and the musical plash of water wraps 
every sense in a magic slumber. 

Spenser's description of Armida's bower might have been 
even more alluring had he seen the fairy picture that lay 
before me. The long slope of the garden, from end to end, 
was a dazzling, glancing stream of water, broken up into 
dashing cascades, and adorned with fountains rising high into 
the air, while the August sun, gleaming on their foam, tinted 
them with all the colours of the rainbow. 

In the far distance appeared a fantastic tiled gateway, 
against the columns of which the lofty fountains seemed to 
be dashing themselves, and this exquisite waterway was 
bordered with weeping willows, beneath whose branches 
grew a wealth of flowers, casting their reflections into the 
stream. 

We were taken by the Prince to a large bare room, devoid 
of furniture, save a few cushions and chairs which had been 
placed for us, and with great windows overlooking the garden. 
When small glasses of tea, flavoured with an infusion of 
cinnamon, had been handed round, the Prince gave an 
audience to the Assad-i-Dowleh, Governer of Baluchistan. I 
did not then pay much attention to the elderly, black-bearded 
man in his dark blue military uniform, not thinking how often 
I should see him a few months later on. 

I was interested in watching the Prince's mirzas y or scribes, 
at work, one of whom, on being shown by his Highness an 
error that he had made in copying a letter, squatted on his 
heels, holding the paper in one hand, while with a wet finger 

13 



178 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

he rubbed out the offending word. He then held the writing 
close to his eyes, laboriously etching in the fresh letters, and 
went on to erase another word with his tongue, making me 
think that the forging of documents must be an easy matter 
in Persia. At one end of his long pen-box was a diminutive 
ink-bottle, near which lay a pair of scissors for cutting his 
paper, which he kept in a roll, to the sizes required. The 
habit of writing from right to left causes Persians to hold the 
pen quite differently to Europeans, and their letters when 
written are by no means easy to decipher, as scraps of 
information are jotted at random all over the paper. 

Our dinner was served in the pavilion, and from its open 
windows we could see the many fountains glittering in the 
moonlight. The Prince asked whether I should like to hear 
Persian music, and, on my eagerly assenting, a youth 
appeared with a kind of guitar, on which he played most 
skilfully, but, as his intervals were entirely different to those to 
which Europeans are accustomed — Persians, so I am told, 
having twelve notes to our octave — the performance gave me 
the impression of the twanging of an orchestra before the 
overture commences. To his accompaniment an elderly 
man, who had once been possessed of a fine voice, knelt down 
on his heels and sang some songs of fighting and love-making 
with great vigour. He had, however, overstrained his voice 
by always singing in a falsetto key, and when he wished to 
give utterance to a queer kind of " tremulo," he swayed him- 
self to and fro in a manner curiously suggestive of great 
bodily pain, and contorted his features into an agonised 
expression. Some of his songs were weird and lugubrious in 
the extreme, and he got hoarser and hoarser as he continued, 
it never seeming to occur to his audience that to sing without 
intermission for a couple of hours might be detrimental to 
the strongest of voices, especially when the performer avails 
himself throughout of the full force of his lungs. 

His Highness was most anxious to know how Persian 
music would be regarded in Europe, and was disappointed 
when we said that we should look upon it more as a curiosity 
than as real music, Orientals considering that the mysteries 



OUR SOCIAL CIRCLE AT KERMAN 179 

of harmony have been revealed to them alone, and that 
Europeans are in the most elementary stages of the art. 

During our repast we were entertained by the Prince's 
buffoon, a tall, white-turbaned Persian in black robes, who 
went by the name of Mollah Lung. He opened proceedings 
by insisting on shaking hands with us, sending the Prince into 
fits of laughter by this very ordinary action, and was then 
regaled with glasses of cherry-brandy and bits of bread 
smeared with mustard ; but what appeared to cause the 
greatest amusement was when he was given a plate of pillau 
and told to eat it with a spoon. Habit was too strong for 
him, however, and we were expected to see something 
extremely funny in the sight of Mollah Lung devouring rice 
in the ordinary Persian way. To my mind he was one of the 
poorest of Court fools, and only became bearable when he 
displayed a Persian natural history book, profusely illus- 
trated with such grotesque caricatures of whales, sharks, 
octopuses, and other denizens of the deep, and the letter- 
press teeming with such astounding exaggerations and 
inaccuracies that we felt sorry to think this was one of the 
ordinary text-books of the youth of Persia. 

Our pleasant visits to the Prince at Mahun were usually 
followed by a shooting trip to the hills, where my brother 
generally succeeded in bagging a few moufflon and ibex ; but 
I must reserve the account of these expeditions for another 
chapter. 



CHAPTER XIV 

ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH, PERSIAN LADIES AND SOME 
PERSIAN CUSTOMS 

AFTER each visit paid to the Prince at Mahun we went 
into the hills in order that my brother might get 
some big game shooting. 

On one of these occasions we wended our way at the 
beginning of September to Arababad, some fifteen miles from 
our quarters near the fairy garden, past big stretches of 
wheat, the second crop of the year, and patches of the castor- 
oil plant, or willow-fig as the Persians call it, and finally 
pitched our camp in a valley beside a stream, bordered with 
sweetbriar bushes, which issued from the neighbouring hills. 
The place was haunted by a leopard, which a shepherd told 
us had carried off a dog and two sheep the day before our 
arrival, and all the servants felt that we had brought them 
into the very jaws of death. Many jokes were perpetrated 
at the expense of the Fat Boy, whom they affirmed would be 
the first victim, and he was in great request as a sleeping 
companion that night, every one feeling that no leopard of 
any discrimination would spring on thin mortals while such 
a substantial meal lay close at hand ! 

Nasrullah Khan amused me by narrating to us next 
morning the details of his plan of campaign. When he 
retired to rest he forced his reluctant servant to lie across the 
door of his tent, and in the event of the leopard rejecting 
Haji and going for his master instead, the latter intended to 
envelop the animal in his bedding and turn the bedstead 
over him, upon which he and Haji would sit until help came ! 

180 



ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH 181 

However, the occasion for these herculean feats never 
arose, although whenever we camped among the hills the 
tracks of some leopard, which had been prowling round our 
tents during the night, were generally visible. 

One morning we all went off at sunrise to climb to the 
crest of a ridge which dominated the camp. As we were 
ascending a range to the east it was gloomy and cold until 
we reached the summit, though behind us the valley was 
being flooded with light, which crept slowly up towards us. 
The shikarchis made us lie down among the boulders before 
we reached the sky-line, and we then saw a herd of nine or 
ten mountain sheep quietly feeding, about three-quarters of a 
mile away. My brother and his huntsmen went off to stalk 
them, leaving us hidden carefully, when, to our great surprise, 
some six or eight ibex, headed by one great goat, passed 
between the shikarchis and their quarry, it being most un- 
usual to find sheep and goats on the same ground. 

My brother fired at and hit the leader of the little herd, 
and then ensued a lengthy chase, and we, when they were all 
out of sight, stretched our cramped limbs and revelled in the 
view across the plain to Mahun, while Jupa, Kuh-i-Hazar, 
Kuh-i-Shah, and many another mountain-giant of the Ker- 
man district rose up in their majesty ; and the thorny scrub 
on the hills as we descended reminded Nasrullah Khan of 
the proverb, " Do not think that that object on the mountain 
is merely a spotted plant ; it may turn out to be a leopard," 
which is the Persian equivalent of "Don't judge by appear- 
ances." 

Two rams and an ibex were the result of my brother's 
shikar, while I also had a taste of the hunter's joy, as I 
captured a large tarantula, with yellow legs, a grey hairy 
body, and scarlet beak-like mouth, which was lying half- 
torpid in my bath sheet. 

On our homeward way to Kerman we zig-zagged through 
the narrow lanes of Mahun, enclosed with such high mud 
walls that we could not get a glimpse of the gardens between 
which we were riding. Here and there we had to cross 
streams beside which willow or jube-trees would be growing, 



182 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

and occasionally the low wooden gate in the high mud wall 
of a garden would be abruptly opened for some one to stare 
at our party. The shrine was in an open space by the broad, 
dry river-bed which acts as an approach to the village, and 
though its blue dome and graceful minarets were charming 
in the distance, yet, as is the case with most Eastern build- 
ings, much of its beauty disappeared when inspected at close 
quarters, it being so hemmed in and built on to with mean 
mud buildings. 

My brother, who visited the mollahs once or twice, said 
that there was nothing of interest inside the shrine, every- 
thing being covered with white plaster, and a few druggets 
replacing the carpet which M. de Rakovszky had carried 
off. 

Sagotch was another spot we explored in search of sport. 
The Consul of Isfahan had told us that the Mahun shrine, or 
another in its vicinity, possessed a certain black pyramidal 
stone, with an inscription relating to Darius engraved upon 
it, which stone had been seen and described by the French 
savant Gobineau. Our interest was greatly aroused by this 
piece of information, and my brother made every inquiry at 
Mahun, but with no result. However, we heard that at 
Sagotch were two sacred stones with writing upon them, 
and accordingly, armed with camera, sketching materials, 
and tracing-paper, we made our way thither. 

It was about the middle of October when we visited the 
shrine, embowered in walnut and jube-trees, the small, red- 
dish fruit of the latter being sweetish and woolly to the taste, 
but, for all that, a great stand-by for the poor. 

The entrance to the courtyard was guarded by an iron 
chain, which signified that here was bast, or sanctuary, for 
any evil-doer who could get past it, this privilege, exercised 
without check by the mollahs, accounting for much of their 
power among the people. 

As we rode up, a thief, in charge of some soldiers, on his 
way to Mahun to be bastinadoed, was passing by. His 
guards gazed with all their eyes at the Europeans, and the 
man, seizing his opportunity, slipped from their grasp, and 



ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH 183 

was under the chain and out of their power before they had 
taken in the situation. 

The shrine was an ordinary-looking mud dome, surrounded 
with mud rooms in which pilgrims lodged, the interior being 
whitewashed, with two rows of trellised windows high up 
in the dome, while common little looking-glasses hung 
round the walls. The whole place was filled with cotton 
handkerchiefs and bits of stuff, glass beads, bangles, &c, 
suspended along ropes stretched over the tomb, most of 
these offerings being presented by parents, to ensure their 
children being shielded from harm. 

Among these masses of kerchiefs stood the escaped pri- 
soner, his arms tightly bound with a thick cord, while he 
convulsively grasped two poles with a metal hand at the top 
of each, symbolic of Abbas, the standard-bearer of Mahomet's 
army. 

The poor fellow stared wildly at us, gasped, and then began 
to work himself up for a good cry, a somewhat theatrical 
performance, I fancy, as the snowy-turbaned mollah in charge 
endeavoured to check his emotion by telling him that there 
was no need for it, since he was safe. The tomb was a great 
white plaster platform, covered with a white sheet, on which 
was laid a copy of the Koran, wrapped in a cloth. Both this 
and the sheet were kissed and patted by each faithful Mus- 
sulman who entered, and were decidedly grimy from this 
method of veneration. Our inquiries elicited nothing about 
the history of the holy man buried here, and when the sacred 
stones were produced we were keenly disappointed. They 
were merely natural curiosities, the white markings on one 
black boulder looking something like Persian characters, 
while the other had much the same appearance in shades 
of grey, and I noticed several of the same kind near our 
camp, which we pitched some three miles above the village, 
to be nearer the mountains. 

Next day my brother went up a high peak, bedding, pro- 
visions and all, so as to have two days' shooting at a stretch, 
and I explored the long, savage-looking ravine down which 
rushes the torrent that supplies Sagotch. The defile was 



1 84 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

so narrow that I had to jump backwards and forwards across 
the stream to get any foothold, but the walk was well worth 
the trouble, as the stream, dashing down in waterfalls and 
cascades, was blocked here and there with huge boulders, 
beneath which it lay in deep pellucid pools, or was broken 
by broad rocky steps, fit for water-nymphs to sit on and 
comb out their golden tresses. On the banks were masses of 
sweetbriar, barbary (the red fruit of which is used in pillaus), 
the tamarisk, and hill almond, and far up I came across men 
engaged in burning charcoal, who told my attendant that the 
torrent comes down in winter with such force that a loaded 
camel cannot stand against the current. Bright and sunny 
as the day was in the morning, yet it suddenly turned grey 
and cold : a dust storm arose, the rain began to pour heavily, 
and I retired to rest full of nervous forebodings as to how my 
brother, up aloft, was passing the night. To my great relief 
he turned up on the morrow shortly after midday, as the rain 
had rendered shooting impossible, and Bargi speeded us on 
our homeward way by burning a handful of the seeds of a 
sacred plant, which when squeezed into the eye acted as a 
most potent charm against witchcraft. 

Two Persian ladies announced their intention of calling 
on me when I returned to Kerman — sisters, and married to 
Khans in the neighbourhood, so my brother betook himself 
to the Prince for the afternoon, and I made the most elabo- 
rate toilette that the circumstances of my wardrobe allowed, 
and strained every nerve to procure an elegant tea, which 
Bargi was to serve out. At three o'clock my visitors 
appeared with two daughters, three women slaves, two 
small boys to guard their slippers, which they left at the 
door of my sitting-room, and three eunuchs, who brought 
kalians to them at intervals. The older ladies were most 
chatty and agreeable, but the girls would not say a word, 
so stringent is Persian etiquette, which literally enforces the 
rule that young people should be seen and not heard in the 
presence of their elders and betters. Unmarried sons or 
daughters are never supposed to turn their backs to their 
parents, and, in company, address them with almost servile 



ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH 185 

respect. My guests all wore handsome brocaded silk or 
velvet jackets, but only partly slipped off the black silk 
sheets which transform every Persian woman into a shape- 
less bundle, and persisted in keeping on their embroidered 
cotton gloves, upon which they sported many rings. If I 
had requested them to remove their black chaddars and 
green silk trousers, they would have imagined that I was 
inviting them to stay to dinner, and perhaps spend the 
night ! 

Poor Bargi began to pour out tea, but was promptly 
checked by the negresses, who informed her that she was 
nejuSy or unclean, and that their mistresses could partake of 
nothing offered to them by her ; and, somewhat to my dis- 
gust, they took the direction of affairs upon themselves. 
One even went so far as to seize and put back on the dish 
a stick of chocolate which one of the girls had taken, telling 
her that probably she would not like the Feringhee sweetmeat, 
and must help herself to a smaller piece to try experiments 
upon. The young lady, who seemed about twenty years of 
age, submitted meekly, so tyrannical is the sway of slaves in 
Persia. 

These latter probably have a better time than they would 
in their own country, Persians giving their slaves very light 
work, as they say they are costly articles and must therefore 
be well treated. All jewellery and money are as a rule con- 
fided to their care, for, as they are cut adrift from their own 
family ties, they are supposed to attach themselves strongly 
to their masters and their interests. An Ethiopian is fre- 
quently the confidant of his master, knows all his secrets, 
and is entrusted with the upbringing of his children. In 
Persia there does not seem to be the slightest slur attaching 
to slavery ; in fact, as far as my experience went, it was 
just the contrary, and the negroes appeared to command the 
whole household. 

But to return to my ladies. I did my best to amuse them 
with a dancing nigger wound up by clockwork, which per- 
formance nearly sent one of them into a fit, as she gasped 
out that it was a Feringhee shaitan, or devil ; a clockwork 



1 86 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

train was also a great attraction to people who had never left 
Kerman, and they positively revelled in my photographs. 
We had a large assortment of portraits of the Prince and 
his suite, and all these gentlemen were examined with the 
closest and most flattering attention, and I had to name 
each likeness two or three times, so anxious were they to 
impress them on their memories. They all professed to be 
sorry for my solitary condition, evidently not understanding 
that my brother and I could be companions in any way, and 
were incredulous of my assurances that I was perfectly happy — 
which assurances I reiterated with fervour, as I dreaded offers 
of a three or four days' visit from my guests. Like all other 
visitors, they were most eager to have a description of my 
home and life in England, and amused me by warning me 
earnestly not to enter into the state of wedlock with a Persian, 
as their marriage customs were khaili karab (very bad). 

I was always afraid of allowing my female friends to com- 
pare their secluded lives with my free one, as it only made 
them discontented with their lot, and as I could do nothing 
to help them I felt it was cruel to stir up vain longings for 
existences less like those of prisoners. 

I wound up the entertainment with a song on my guitar, 
which probably wounded their musical senses, but caused 
one to exclaim to the others that Feringhee ladies could do 
everything, and we parted with much effusion, the black silk 
sheets and white veils being carefully adjusted before they 
left the safety of my sitting-room. 

Persian ladies, I fear, have rather a dull time as a rule, 
though they probably get more fun out of life than is 
apparent to English people. They have numberless parties 
among themselves, at which they take great pride in dis- 
playing their garments and jewellery, and the weekly bath 
is in reality their day at the club. They stay many hours in 
the steaming atmosphere, taking their servants and young 
children with them, and gossiping with the dozens of friends 
they meet there. As women are admitted half-price, and 
children and servants free, the bath is a popular institution, 
and all ladies are most particular about having elegant wraps 



ARAB AB AD AND SAGOTCH 187 

for their towels and handsome cushions to repose on after 
their ablutions. They bring lunch with them, which is usually 
a light repast of lettuces and vinegar, fruit and scangebee, and 
the bath takes the whole day when the lady's hair is dyed 
with henna and her eyebrows artistically painted. If in 
mourning, they are not supposed to dye their hair, as henna 
is a symbol of happiness, whereas the dyeing of the finger 
and big-toe nails is a religious observance. 

Only princes can display scarlet tails to their horses, and 
even they (speaking of the use of henna) merely in the pro- 
vinces, for at Tehran the Shah's horses alone are allowed this 
distinction. 

A Persian bath hardly recommends itself to European 
ideas of cleanliness, as it is composed of two large tanks, 
one of hot and one of cold water. Every one performs his 
or her ablutions in the hot tank first, and as it costs a con- 
siderable amount of money, expended in firewood and char- 
coal, to heat such a large expanse of water properly, and as 
bathing is very cheap, it is necessary to have a great number 
of bathers to make it pay, and I fear it is cleaned out at very 
long intervals. 

The second, or cold tank, is in an adjoining room, ready 
for the final plunge. Fastidious Persians, however, do not 
avail themselves of this, but make their servants bring 
pitchers of water with them from their homes, seemingly 
ignoring the fact that it is the hot water-tank that they 
should chiefly avoid. 



When it is time for a Persian youth to get married — which 
he can legally do at the age of fifteen, and girls at that of 
twelve, his mother goes to inspect a suitable wife for him. 
If she does not know of any likely maiden she enlists the 
services of an old woman, whose office it is to go from house 
to house and act as an intermediary in matrimonial arrange- 
ments, all mothers of marriageable daughters treating her 
with the greatest respect in order that she may give a good 
report of their belongings. 



188 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

The young lady being fixed upon, and such important 
details as social position and dowry being satisfactory, the 
gentleman's mother and other female relatives pay a call of 
ceremony at her home. Every one of course knows for what 
object they have come, and the girl is told to hand them tea 
and kalians, her manner of doing these little services being 
severely criticised. It sometimes happens that the damsel is 
perfectly well acquainted by sight with her would-be 
betrothed, and if he has not met with favour in her eyes she 
now makes a point of behaving rudely to his mother, and 
the negotiations come to an abrupt conclusion. 

If, on the other hand, she has approved of him when her 
slaves have pointed him out to her in her walks abroad, all 
goes smoothly, and she attends a party in turn at his house, 
knowing full well that he is doing his best to have a look at 
her, as he stands hidden away on some balcony, anxiously 
watching his mother, who will by means of signs show him 
his future wife. 

The suitor is not supposed to see his fiancee until the 
formal betrothal by the mollah takes place. If her face 
displeases him he can draw back by paying to her 
parents half the sum of money they had agreed to give her 
for a dowry ; but this very seldom happens, as a man 
behaving in this way is socially disgraced. Moreover, the 
lady is so rouged and powdered on this occasion, and her 
eyelids and eyebrows so blackened with antimony, that it is 
no easy matter to gain a clear idea of what her natural 
charms may be. 

The wedding is a grand affair, the poorest Persian often 
going deeply into debt, and squandering two or three years' 
income in feasting his friends, the mollahs and beggars, and 
in entertaining them with hired musicians. 

When the couple settle down to a humdrum married 
existence the Persian theory is that a man has linked himself 
to a being inferior to him in every way, who must submit to 
his sovereign will in all things. From his extreme youth he 
has been taught by the priests to pay no attention to the 
counsels of his wife, and they have strongly impressed upon 



ARAB AB AD AND SAGOTCH 189 

him that if a woman advises him to any course of action he 
had better do the exact contrary. 

I remember on one occasion calling on a lady when her 
husband was present, and the latter at once asked me 
whether I thought his wife pretty, in much the same way as 
if she were a horse or dog. He also bade me remark how ill 
at ease she was in his presence, adding with pride that if 
they were at table together she would have trembled in every 
limb from fear of her lord and master. It was impossible to 
make him understand my indignation at this state of things ; 
but yet, as human nature is much the same all the world 
over, there are occasionally henpecked husbands even in 
Persia. 

For instance, the wife of one Governor of my acquaintance 
was a lady of great force of character, and all who considered 
themselves to be aggrieved at any decision of her husband, 
would lay their cases before her by means of the servants of 
her anderoon, and it frequently happened that if she thought 
fit she would insist on her lord and master reversing his 
decrees. 

It is now the fashion in Persia, despite the example set 
by the Shah, to have only one wife. This is, in a great 
measure, due to the fact that the Persians of to-day are 
usually very poor, and naturally the keeping up of two or 
three entirely different establishments is a very great tax 
on a man's resources, to say nothing of the trouble involved 
of superintending the servants and in examining the accounts 
of each household. 

A Persian lady is not really the mistress of her house. All 
the shopping is done by her nazir y or steward, who gives in a 
monthly account to his master, taking so much percentage 
for himself, for his trouble. As a rule she is an adept in the 
making of sweetmeats and sherbets, and these arts, with 
needlework, fill up most of her time, as she is seldom 
addicted to intellectual pursuits, few ladies being able to 
read or write. 

She sees very little of her husband, who, if he is an official 
of any kind, probably leaves her early in the morning not to 



190 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

return till nightfall ; and indeed she cannot be a companion to 
him, as she is entirely precluded from accompanying him on 
his drives or rides, and so gets to regard him merely as a 
being to be petitioned for new clothes and jewellery or to be 
propitiated with pillaus or sweetmeats. If her husband met 
her in the streets and recognised her, all disguised as she 
would be, he could not speak to or even salute her, so 
stringent is Persian etiquette on this point. 

As a mother, the Persian lady has no great influence in 
the upbringing of her children, as she hands them over to the 
charge of servants at an early age. The boys are treated 
like men from infancy, trained to copy their fathers in every 
way, checked if they run and romp, as such things are 
undignified, and made to sit up to the Persian dinner, which 
never finishes before midnight. I remember one day at 
Kerman a Persian gentleman and his little son lunched 
with us, and it was wonderful to see how capitally the latter 
managed his knife and fork. It was evident that this was 
his first attempt at handling these awkward articles, but he 
was not to be daunted, and watched me narrowly, doing as 
I did, and only using his fingers when baffled by a really 
unmanageable piece of meat, first glancing round to see 
whether any one were observing him or not. This custom 
of never allowing a child to exert himself probably accounts 
for the fact that the physique of the upper classes leaves 
much to be desired, while the peasant population usually 
consists of remarkably fine, well-built men. 

All travellers in Persia are struck by the way in which the 
Persians depend on their servants, asking their opinion on all 
points, and apparently being guided a good deal by their 
advice ; but this is not to be wondered at when it is remem- 
bered that as soon as a boy is old enough to leave his 
mother he is practically brought up by two or three servants, 
on whom he leans more or less through life ; the patriarchal 
system being in vogue in Persia, the domestics are a part of 
the family and seldom change their situations. 

Moreover, it is on his retainers that a Persian gentleman 
depends for a great part of his amusement ; these latter on 



ARABABAD AND SAGOTCH 191 

their daily visit to the bazaars, collecting all the gossip of the 
town, which they retail to their masters, thus helping to 
while away the idle hours. 

No Persian of any standing ever sends his sons to school, 
but engages a tutor to come to the house daily to teach them 
to read the Koran, Sadi and Hafiz, and to instruct them in 
writing, their education commencing at the age of five, the 
girls occasionally being included in these lessons up to eight 
years of age, and usually the sons of the servants of the 
house, as social distinctions are in some ways less regarded 
in Persia than in Europe. 

Besides their teacher proper the boys are in charge of a 
lala, an old man, who performs the functions of the Greek 
pedagogue, taking his charges out for walks, and keeping a 
keen eye on all their movements. 

If they refuse to learn, two fer ashes, who are always in 
attendance at the door of their schoolroom, enter armed with 
the apparatus for applying the bastinado to unruly pupils, 
which punishment is no disgrace, the sons of the Shah and 
the highest officials having had perhaps to submit to it. 
Their education goes on to the age of eighteen, and it is a 
wonder if they gain much from it, as the meaning of what 
they read is not insisted upon in the least, a parrot-gabble of 
the Koran being considered a high achievement. As the 
mollahs are only paid at the rate of 5 tomans, or £i, monthly 
for their services, it is hardly to be expected that they them- 
selves can be profound Arabic scholars, and, as for general 
knowledge, their ignorance is colossal. Nasrullah Khan has 
told me how, when the Atlantic Ocean was mentioned in a 
book he read as a boy, his teacher explained to him that it 
was a city somewhere in Feringhistan or Europe. 

There is no great amount of family affection in Persia, 
the fathers often disliking their sons, unless sharp and 
clever, and appearing to treat their daughters with profound 
indifference. 

The "Photographer" had one of his sons with him at 
Kerman, a good-natured but heavy-witted youth, and 
actually described him to me in the boy's presence as "seule- 



i 9 2 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ment une bete, rien de plus" The young fellow did not seem 
to resent this at all, for he remarked One day, apropos of his 
position at Kerman, " The man who gives me bread, he it is 
whom I serve. My father feeds me here, therefore I am his 
servant." 

One of my Persian friends described to me the way in 
which his father treated him on the lad's return from the 
Military College at Tehran after a successful career there. 
He was delighted to be at home again, and hastened to greet 
his parent, who was in a room with all the servants round 
him, and who hardly deigned to respond to his son's saluta- 
tions, telling him to retire after a few moments. 

The poor fellow rushed from the room cut to the heart, 
and assured me that he would have taken his life if some 
of the old family retainers had not followed him and so 
prevented the rash act. 

Suicide in Persia is looked upon as a great sin, because it 
is considered that a man by killing himself has destroyed 
unborn generations to which he might have been the 
ancestor, and the mollahs beat his dead body with many 
stripes, predicting much suffering for the deceased in the 
next world. 

At his death a man leaves double the portion of property 
to his sons that he does to his daughters, and so far does this 
division go, that I heard that a most beautiful carpet had been 
cut into pieces by a family to whom it was willed. 

The Persians have a proverb about the disposal of money 
during a man's lifetime c " Eat it, give it away, and leave some 
behind you ; " while they have a well-known story about the 
father who buried his property, which was removed from its 
hiding-place by his son, and stones put in its stead. When 
reproached by his father, the young man made reply, " Money 
is given to be spent If you wish to hoard, stones and gold 
are equally good for the purpose." 

In the case of a Government official the chances of his heirs 
are indeed poor, as, in all probability, the ruler of the province 
will swoop down upon the deceased man's property, on the 
time-honoured pretext that his accounts are out of order. 



ARAB AB AD AND SAGOTCH 193 

Even if it be subsequently proved that everything is correct, 
yet the survivors will never be able to recover the full amount 
of which they have been mulcted. 



When a Persian lady is advanced in years, she often 
becomes very devout, frankly telling every one that she is 
preparing for the next world, and to this end she insists on 
going on a pilgrimage. If possible Mecca or Kerbelah will be 
her goal, though, if want of means put these shrines out of the 
question, she will perforce content herself with Meshed. The 
journey is a serious affair, as she must travel in the jolting 
kajaveh) or pannier, strapped on to a mule, if she cannot afford 
the expensive tachterivan^ and must keep herself veiled the 
whole time, however hot the weather. Usually when the place 
of pilgrimage is reached, the lady and her servants will settle 
down for a year, and she will visit the mosque daily, present 
offerings of gold or jewellery at the shrine, and pay a mollah 
to recite portions of the Koran to her, if she is unable to read 
the sacred book herself. Her devotions are not entirely un- 
mixed with pleasure, for a part of the mosque is always 
screened off for women, and here she will sit and chat with 
friends from her native city. She does not trouble herself 
about the husband and house that she has left behind, for, 
as she has never had the management of either of them, they 
can easily get on without her, and her children are safe with 
a faithful slave. The pilgrimage to Meshed confers the title of 
Meshtedi ; that to Kerbelah, of Kerbelai ; while the most 
coveted is that of Haji, given to those who have visited Mecca, 
and even to boys born in the month of the Hejreh (the flight of 
the Prophet from Mecca), who thus get the title without the 
trouble of going on the pilgrimage. To go to Mecca requires a 
long purse, the Arabs levying blackmail on visitors to their 
holy city, and accordingly the Persians form themselves into 
big caravans, paying an Arab guard to protect them from 
being looted by his inhospitable fellow-countrymen. 

On the third day of the pilgrimage, when the holocaust of 
sheep takes place (which commemorates the supposed sacrifice 

14 



194 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

of Ishmael by Abraham), the pilgrims pluck out the eyes of 
the animals, which they dry, and consider a most effective 
talisman to avert the evil eye from children, if a turquoise be 
stuck inside them, stitching them on to the little caps worn by 
their sons. (Most juvenile Persians carry about a perfect 
armoury of charms, such as verses from the Koran hung in a 
bag from the neck, or bound to the forearm, blue beads, and 
so on. It is most unsafe to admire a child, unless you take 
the precaution to say " Mashallah ! " for should it fall ill after 
your gaze rested upon it, the parents will give you the credit 
of its indisposition.) 

Travellers to the holy places wear a peculiar dress, ihrani, 
which they lay for a day and a night on the shrines to sanctify 
them ; and keep them to be used for their shrouds ; and they 
bring back bags of earth from the same spots to be sprinkled 
on their corpses when about to be buried, and for use during 
their devotions. 

I always thought highly of the courage and endurance of 
the Persian ladies who undertook these pilgrimages, especially 
when I remembered how grudgingly they are admitted into 
Paradise. 

From what I could gather, the after life appears to be 
arranged solely for the convenience of the men. These latter 
pass an eternity of bliss in exquisite gardens, beside running 
streams, surrounded by bands of houris of surpassing beauty, 
who lull them to repose with their enchanting music. Nor 
are the creature comforts of the faithful forgotten. A certain 
wondrous tree sends its branches into all their dwelling- 
places, each branch being laden with the favourite dishes of 
the man to whom it offers itself, and the believers can rest at 
will beside a broad river of milk. 

The poor women can only attain their own Paradise by 
extraordinary exertions, and there does not appear to be 
much provided for their entertainment when they do reach 
the goal of their longings, save angels, to whom probably 
they pay court as they did in a former state to their earthly 
lords and masters. 

In one part of the Koran it is stated that the Prophet was 



ARAB AB AD AND SAGOTCH 195 

permitted a glance into hell, and observed that the great 
majority of the poor victims writhing there in torment were 
women ! 

No well-to-do Persian would care to eat food cooked the 
day before, as a jinn or deeve might have looked at it during 
the night and so rendered it evil ; and for the same reason 
youths are not allowed to sleep alone, as, " Who can tell what 
may happen during the night ? " rich men usually paying a 
mollah to be with them during the hours of darkness. I 
should not be surprised if the evening meal had something to 
do with these ghosts. It begins at 9 p.m. with much drinking 
of wine and arrack, and eating of dried fruits, the dinner proper 
not making its appearance till 1 1 p.m. or even midnight. 

Before this latter appears, the company adjourn to the 
tank in the courtyard, to rinse their mouths and wash their 
hands, as, unless all traces of the forbidden wine be got rid 
of, every dish and platter will be rendered nejus, or unclean, 
and will have to be subjected to extraordinary cleansing 
operations on the next day. Although Persians believe that 
it is a sin to drink wine, and that in the next world they will 
be forced to partake of a horrible water in expiation for this 
propensity, yet it is rare to meet any one in the upper classes 
who is not fond of intoxicating liquors, albeit they indulge in 
the taste secretly. 

The dinner, when at last it arrives on the scene, consists of 
six or eight dishes of soup, pillau> Milan, kabobs, and so on, 
arranged on a leather tablecloth, which is unrolled and 
spread on the ground. The food is disposed of with mar- 
vellous celerity, and then the whole company throw themselves 
on their respective divans to sleep. 

Persians have a deep-rooted repugnance to killing anything 
at night, looking upon it, indeed, as a sin to despatch a lamb 
or fowl after dark, while the greatest criminal is never forced 
to pay the penalty of his misdeeds until the morning. 

Although the dog is an unclean animal, yet Persians make 
an exception in favour of greyhounds (taxi) and all hunting 
dogs, saying that the heads of every species are clean, as 
that is the only part of itself that the animal cannot lick. 



196 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Cats, however, although clean, are not much in favour, as 
their hair is so much in the habit of coming off, and may 
adhere to the garments of the Faithful when they are 
engaged in prayer. 

Throughout my stay at Kerman I was struck with the 
curiously aimless existence of most of the gentlemen with 
whom I came in contact. 

The Prince and the Bejat, his deputy, were, however, very 
busy men, as the work of a whole province devolved on them, 
and a Persian Governor occupies himself with the settlement 
of a trifling dispute among his servants, as well as with 
the matters of moment that come under his notice. His 
sentences are usually very severe. In a case that I was told 
of, a stable-boy was supposed to have stolen some copper 
money from another servant, and this latter went to the 
Governor for redress. He had, however, no proofs to offer, 
except that the thief had left a footprint, or rather the mark of 
his cotton shoe, near the rifled hoard. The Governor at once 
commanded that this impress should be measured with a 
piece of string, and the length compared with that of the 
givas worn by the whole household of servants. This was 
done. The unlucky groom's shoe fitted best, and upon this 
circumstantial evidence, worthy of a Lecoq, he was condemned 
to lose his right hand — a punishment which would degrade 
him for the rest of his life to the already overcrowded ranks 
of the city beggars. Fortunately for him intercession was 
made, with the happy result that a portion of his ear was cut 
off instead — a sufficiently stern award, a European would 
think, when he reflects that very probably the youth was 
innocent, or the whole thing a plot got up by a malicious 
fellow-servant to injure one whom he disliked or who stood 
in his way. 

But if a Persian gentleman is not in a position where he 
acts as judge and ruler, or has not a large property to attend 
to, he spends his time as a hanger-on of the Governor or of 
any high official of his town, if there is no royal court at 
which to make his obeisance. To lounge about the hall in 
which the ruler is dispensing justice is considered as a sign 



ARAB A BAD AND SAGOTCH 197 

of respect to the powers that be, and the settlement of the 
various cases is watched with keen interest, the onlookers 
debating among themselves how much money it will be 
necessary for a client to offer the Governor to decide the 
case in his favour, justice in Persia being entirely ruled by 
the man who has the longest purse. 

As some reward for his " service," as this method of doing 
honour is termed, the hanger-on may partake of a pillau 
which will be served at noon in the hall of justice, after 
which the Governor will probably retire for a siesta, and, if 
keen on getting money, will return later to settle more cases, 
or, if not, will go for a slow amble, attended by many para- 
sites and servants, all intent on flattering him in somewhat 
fulsome manner. 

But here again I feel that perhaps I am too severe. Most 
of the gentlemen with whom I was brought in contact 
never appeared to me to do anything much beyond sleep- 
ing, talking, and eating, never reading a book on any pretence 
whatever, and not even throwing themselves heartily into 
sport. 

Yet, of course, the Oriental point of view is not the 
European one, and probably they looked upon us as lunatics 
for our ceaseless energy, our love of exercise, and our habit 
of filling up every spare moment with some occupation or 
other. 

"Kismet!" ("It is fate") is sufficient explanation for an 
Oriental to give when he is ill, or when things go wrong, even 
from his own fault ; and this fatalism is too alien to my 
Western mind to permit me, I fear, to be quite fair when 
writing of my Persian acquaintances. 



CHAPTER XV 

A PICNIC AT KERMAN 

DURING our stay at Kerman we were thrown much 
upon the society of the gentry of the neighbourhood, 
and found them easy to get on with, being very sociable, 
quick-witted, and intelligent, although we speedily discovered 
them to be somewhat lacking in such qualities as truthfulness, 
honesty, or honour. 

It is, however, unfair to attempt to criticise Orientals by 
European standards, as one soon perceives that their " point 
of view " is widely divergent from that of the West. 

My brother, after some years in India, where friendly 
intercourse with the high-class natives seemed an impossi- 
bility, was glad to be living with a race who would eat, 
drink, and smoke with the infidel Feringhees without demur. 

For my part, I found them exceedingly courteous and 
attentive to me — a matter for wonder, considering the low 
position held by women in Persia, which fact made me stand 
very much upon my dignity. The most educated among them 
were weary of their Government and its doings, and again 
and again I was asked, with that strange lack of patriotism 
so noticeable in Persia, as to when the English were coming, 
my interlocutors seeming to imagine that a British army was 
already disembarking on the coast, and was about to march 
inland from the Persian Gulf. 

One of the most intelligent of our habitues once told me 
that Persia was, as it were, at the last act of the Tazieh, or 



A PICNIC AT KERMAN 199 

Passion Play ; for when the audience perceives that the play 
is about to conclude, one man gets his slippers ready, another 
wraps his cloak around him, while a third hunts for the bag 
of dried fruits with which he has been regaling himself at 
intervals. No one attends to the actors in the least ; all are 
thinking of themselves and their belongings, and how best to 
hurry out of the theatre. And our friend applied the analogy 
by remarking that thus it was with Persia at the present time, 
every Persian thinking that the kingdom was nearing its 
end, and being fully occupied in looking out for his own 
interests. 

On another occasion he interested me by saying that there 
was a certain bird that travelled from country to country. Rome, 
Carthage, Spain, and many another land had been blessed by 
its sojourn among them, and now, he affirmed, it had fixed 
its abode in England. Upon asking what attracted the 
' bird " to a country, I was given the answer in earnest tones,. 
' Good laws, justice, an incorruptible Government — everything, 
in short, that England has, and Persia lacks." 

As they got to know me by degrees, some of them spoke 
bitterly about the need of education for their women, com- 
paring these latter with me, to whom they did the honour of 
saying that I could understand whatever they said ! They 
complained that their wives could talk nothing but gossip 
picked up at the weekly bath, and that as their religion for- 
bade the men seeing their womankind, save in the house, they 
had very few interests in common. I always told them that 
they alone were to blame, and when I explained to them how 
I had been educated, my school and college life, and my final 
months of tuition in Germany, they were quite aghast, and 
one of them exclaimed indignantly, " It is all the fault of our 
accursed religion, that binds us in chains as well as our poor 
women ! " 

One topic of conversation was of unfailing interest to 
men and women alike — our Queen. They were never tired 
of asking questions about her Majesty's age, the years of her 
reign, and so on, holding her in an extraordinary esteem. 
One gentleman expressed himself to the effect that if a 



200 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

great nation like the English were ruled by a woman, 
whom they one and all regarded with an indescribable 
admiration and reverence, she must indeed be a super- 
natural being ! 

They were also curious about the institutions of Yangi 
Dunya (New World), the Persian name for America, and I 
used to wonder if the term " Yankee Doodle " could possibly 
be a corruption of it. Speaking of names, our Persian friends 
insisted that " Kerman " and " German " were one and the 
same word, and that Germania owed its origin to a colony 
from distant Carmania, but they could find nothing further 
in support of this rather startling theory. 

An ordinary Persian's idea of light conversation is to ask 
what you have paid for each of your possessions, from your 
horses, carpets, furniture, and downwards. He will, moreover, 
make a series of searching inquiries as to your income, age, 
position in society, and will not hesitate to question you on 
your most private affairs. 

At first I used to be somewhat taken aback at a habit, 
equally common among our acquaintances and our servants, 
of saying " Chira ? " (Why ?) to every proposition. " Will 
you dine with us to-night ? " would be answered by " Why ? " 
when the invited guest had every intention of coming ; and 
frequently an order given to a domestic would be accepted 
with the inevitable " Chira ? " 

Morier's inimitable " Hajji Baba " was a work in which we 
greatly rejoiced during our stay in Persia, and I lent it to 
Nasrullah Khan, thinking that he would enjoy perusing it. 
The book, however, puzzled instead of amusing him, and he 
used to say to me that he was reading steadily on in the 
hope of coming in time to something terrible or romantic or 
even comic. " The other day I read two or three pages to 
Meshtedi Mehdi," he told me, "and Meshtedi said it was 
ridiculous to print things that were done every day in Persia, 
and conversations just like those which we ourselves hold 
with one another ! " 

We frequently entertained our acquaintances with luncheon- 
parties, dinners, and picnics, and it may interest my readers 



A PICNIC A T KERMAN 201 

if I give an account of one of these latter, which took 
place at the garden of Fathabad, some nine miles from 
Kerman. 

We sent off the servants and the mules, laden with 
provisions, on the day before, and we ourselves started 
about half-past eight one fine September morning, old Haji 
Muhammed Khan arranging to be our guide. Our desti- 
nation was one of the numerous places in and around 
Kerman that he affirmed had once belonged to a pre- 
historic sister of his — a sister whom we could never help 
regarding as mythical, so extensive and all-embracing did 
her possessions appear to have been ! 

Whenever Haji Khan took us a ride, it was always to 
escort us to some garden, the possession of this lady, and he 
invariably gave such flowery descriptions of these places 
beforehand, and we considered them so unworthy of a visit 
when we reached them, that his pride reminded us of the 
proverb, " A Persian thinks that a hen's egg, if it belongs to 
him, has been produced by a swan." 

On this occasion we made our way to a point outside the 
city, where our eight other guests had agreed to meet us, 
but as Persians have no great regard for punctuality we 
were not surprised to find no one there, and having de- 
spatched a servant to inform them of our movements, we 
rode on. 

Although Haji Khan was conducting us to a well-known 
spot, yet he seemed curiously uncertain of the direction in 
which it lay, and I was fast feeling that we had a very 
erratic guide, when suddenly the " Photographer " galloped 
up, took the direction of affairs, and steered us safely to the 
shady poplar avenue of Fathabad. A long tank full of 
water, and alive with ducks and geese, lay in front of a fairy- 
like erection, all dainty columns, white stucco-work, and 
stained glass — a most refreshing sight after the glare and heat 
of our ride through a barren country. The big garden 
behind was full of zinnias, dahlias, petunias, asters — in fact 
all the autumnal flowers that one finds in an English garden ; 
vines were trained over mud-columned pergolas, and a 



202 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

pretty kiosk had steps leading down to a round pond, 
whose water was reputed to be highly beneficial for certain 
complaints. 

We climbed upon the roof of the principal building to 
enjoy the fine panorama of the desert, and here the serpent 
of this little Paradise was discovered, as the " Photographer " 
seized a long snake by the tail, and pretended to chase 
Suleiman Mirza with it, which proceeding frightened the 
doughty commander-in-chief half out of his wits. 

The rooms were charmingly furnished with green and 
gold floorcloths, and comfortable silk-covered divans, with 
a profusion of huge downy cushions, although the artistic 
effect of the Persian adornments was considerably spoilt by 
a series of hideous German prints, representing languishing 
ladies in evening dress, smoking cigarettes ; inferior mirrors 
shared the wall spaces with these pictures, while from the 
numerous lamps hung blue, yellow, and red glass balls, 
identical with those used to decorate Christmas-trees. We 
all sat on a carpet for lunch, as no chairs were forthcoming, 
and our meal began with tomatoes from the garden. I 
mention this as, after a regime of marrow for two months, 
with not even a potato or an onion, it was indeed a treat to 
taste a fresh vegetable. All our guests were accustomed to 
the use of knives and forks, but some of their habits at table 
were distinctly odd. If bread were handed round they would 
turn over every piece with their fingers, until they found one 
to their taste, and they thought nothing of biting a corner off 
a sweetmeat or biscuit and then replacing the mutilated 
fragment back on* the dish ! After a time I never had 
cakes when Persians came to tea, as they seemed unable 
to take a slice in an ordinary way, but would pull the 
whole thing to pieces, breaking off a bit here and a bit 
there, until they had messed the entire confection ! As a 
rule they refrained from putting the spoon or fork they 
had been using into the dishes, and only ate with their 
fingers when the food was hard to manipulate in a civilised 
way. 

However, to drink from the lip of a water-jug seemed an 



A PICNIC A T KERMAN 203 

irresistible temptation, and apparently their chief idea of a 
teapot was that it was a vessel the spout of which was 
specially adapted to sip from. 

I always did my best to give my guests a European menu, 
and they frequently told me how much they enjoyed it, as 
there was so little variety in their own food. 

Twice daily a tray containing bowls of soup, pillau, chillau 
(plain boiled rice), and khoroosh (stewed meat and grease) 
was sent to each member of the Prince's suite from the 
royal kitchen, and I fancy that this never-changing diet occa- 
sionally palled upon its recipients. 

When our lunch was over my brother and I betook 
ourselves to the garden, so as to leave the Persians free to 
indulge in their customary midday siesta, after which the 
Photographer, Beorgh Khan, and myself set up our respective 
cameras. Tea over, we mounted our steeds for the home- 
ward ride, and by chance got on the wrong side of a stream 
which must be crossed. Our horses, well accustomed to such 
work, took their leaps in fine style, but it was curious to see 
the alarm and hesitation of the others, who would probably 
have turned back to find an easier course if they had not 
feared our laughter. Fortunately all struggled across some- 
how or other, and I devoted most of the rest of the ride 
to giving the doctor a lesson in English, not considering 
his instructor to be altogether reliable, as he had impressed 
on the doctor that the past participle of all English verbs 
ended in en, and had written out for his pupil a list of such 
words as hunten, loven, liken, &c. 

The " Photographer " and Beorgh Khan rode with small 
hawks on their wrists, inciting them to swoop upon any 
harmless " cockyolly " bird they came across, or, seizing their 
guns, they would gallop furiously after the numerous crows, 
which did not appear to be much alarmed when fired at : 
probably Persians had taken aim at them before. The 
" Photographer " told me how he used to capture larks in 
Tabriz in the winter. He would ride out with some friends, 
one of them having a hawk on his wrist, and as soon as 
a lark was espied, the falcon was made to fly on to the hand 



204 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

of another member of the party. The lark, seeing the hawk, 
would crouch closely to the ground, and was then captured 
by a noose attached to a stick. Partridges are caught in 
much the same way, as they huddle into the snow at sight 
of an enemy, giving rise to the saying in the North, "As the 
partridge hides its head in the snow," which is equivalent to 
our "ostrich" proverb, and which in other parts of Persia is 
rendered, " As a man riding on a camel thinks he is not seen 
if he bends his head down." Our friend highly appreciated 
the forbidden gusht-i-bulbul (literally flesh of nightingales), 
or pork, and had hit upon an ingenious way by which 
he could enjoy it when at Tabriz. He told me he was in the 
habit of making expeditions to Lake Urumieh to shoot wild 
boar, but of course could not eat the unclean food in the face 
of the religious scruples of his family and servants ; there- 
fore he was accustomed to send the hams to his European 
acquaintances, who would invite him to their houses in return 
to partake of these delicacies ! 

It got dark before we reached the city, where we said 
goodbye to our friends, and, as there was no moon, we had 
rather a bad time traversing the couple of miles, outside 
the walls, to ourJiouse, the road being broken away in places, 
with numerous dangerous holes at intervals. " Charters," 
however, seemed always possessed of super-equine intelligence 
on these occasions, keeping his head very low, avoiding all 
specially black-looking places, or testing them first with his 
hoof, so that I felt it was wiser to trust to his sagacity rather 
than to my own. 

As our china and glass sent out from England the previous 
October reached us early in September, we felt that we 
could now give dinner-parties in style, and the Farman 
Farma was among our earliest guests. 

It was rather an undertaking entertaining a Persian 
Prince, as besides having to prepare a varied repast for 
our invited guests, I had to arrange for pillaus, melons, wine, 
kalians, &c, to be got ready for at least twenty of their 
followers. It was amusing to see how solicitous our servants 
were that these latter should fare well, all Persians saying 



A PICNIC AT KERMAN 205 

that it does not much matter if the master gets a poor dinner, 
but that if his servants are ill-fed they will give the in- 
hospitable house a bad name in the Bazaar. " Fill the mouth 
of a servant " is a Persian proverb to this effect, and I could 
not impress upon my henchmen that it made not the 
slightest difference to me whether the Farman Farma's 
followers approved of my hospitality or not. 

His Highness had agreed to be with us half an hour after 
sunset, i.e., seven o'clock, but with Oriental procrastination 
he, with the Bejat and doctor, never arrived till past 
nine o'clock ! He was greatly pleased to see me in evening 
dress, and was much astonished when I told him that we 
both made a point of changing for dinner, even when alone, 
the Persian habit of never changing the clothes, whatever 
work had been done in them during the day, being a 
particularly unpleasant one to me. 

Nasrullah Khan, and a certain stout Persian gentleman, 
had quite a bad name in Kerman, on account of their 
attention to the toilette, Persians saying that it is effeminate 
for a man to be clean, and despising any man who is obtru- 
sively so, while they specially resent any one indulging in 
more than one shave per week ! 

At dinner the Prince was delighted with an Indian curry 
made by our invaluable syce, and begged us to send the 
latter to teach the novel dish to his took. This Fakir 
Mahomet was only too pleased to do, and in course of 
time was presented by his Highness with a robe of honour, 
consisting of some yards of Kerman shawl. 

Our little factotum was extravagantly proud after this 
dignity had been conferred upon him, and he got into the 
habit of calling the servants by an uncomplimentary 
Hindustani word, which of course none of them under- 
stood. 

When, however, they took to applying this term of abuse 
to him it was more than he could stand, and he betook 
himself to Nasrullah Khan to explain that he was, as 
it were, in a cleft stick, not daring to explain the mean- 
ing of this particular expression to the servants, but yet 



206 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

furiously indignant with them for presuming to use it to 
him ! 

His Highness ordered our servants about freely, calling 
for tea and kalians at intervals after dinner, and saying to 
Hashim, " S/iuma, chitor ast ? " (" How are you ? ") — which 
mark of favour nearly turned the head of that worthy. 

In Persia it is a sign of particular friendship to give orders 
to the servants of your host, and a Persian only takes this 
liberty when he is on terms of great intimacy with the 
household. 

The Prince was the only one of our acquaintances who did 
this, but the others always made a point of inquiring after 
the health of our head-waiter, when they came to the house, 
this attention being supposed to be an indirect politeness to 
ourselves. 

After dinner on this occasion we sat and talked, the 
Farman Farma taking the greatest interest in the details of 
our system of Government, our Army and Navy. He was 
wonderfully quick at understanding the gist of any subject 
under discussion, and, what was perhaps more remarkable, 
he remembered in its smallest particulars anything that 
he had once grasped thoroughly. 

Catching sight of my guitar, he begged me to give him a 
song, and I complied with some amusement, knowing that 
he would consider that I was evoking the most barbarous 
" cat's music " from the instrument. He professed, however, 
to admire my performance greatly, and went on to say that 
be had heard European ladies sing at Tabriz, but that their 
melodies seemed so terrible to him that he could with 
difficulty refrain from stopping his ears ! On this I could 
not resist from remarking that most Oriental singing was apt 
to affect me in much the same way, and then changed the 
conversation, feeling that a discussion on the respective 
merits of Eastern and Western music would hardly be a 
profitable one. 

Glad as I was to have my crockery, yet its advent deprived 
us of the services of Fatullah, a worthy youth, who acted 
as second waiter. He was unfortunately of a very nervous 



A PICNIC A T KERMAN 207 

disposition, and when our china was unpacked Hashim came 
laughing to tell me that the boy wished to leave the Con- 
sulate, as he had not courage to stay in face of such a 
formidable array of plates and dishes. However, he did not 
go for some time, until one unlucky day he smashed a saucer, 
and at once fled to his home in the town. We recaptured 
him, told him that we were not angry, as we felt it was 
not his fault, and all went well for about a month. Then one 
evening a howling, sobbing figure made its appearance 
bearing the fragments of a broken decanter to show me. 
It was Fatullah, whom I consoled as best I could ; but alack, 
his nerve was gone, and he went off for the second time, 
firmly declining to have anything further to do with such 
dangerous goods as glass and china ! " 77 tiy-a-pas cFhomme 
nfcessaire" is as true of Persia as of everywhere else, and 
his place was speedily filled up by a substitute, who suited 
us better in every way. 

Although we did not regret the loss of Fatullah, yet we 
should have been thankful if our other servants had copied, 
in even a small degree, his unusual conscientiousness ; for 
about this time an evil spirit seemed to have taken possession 
of them. From Fakir Mahomet (whose backsliding was a 
real grief to me) down to the lowest servant they became 
lazier than ever, forgot the simplest order, went about 
dirty, and were conspicuous by their absence from the Con- 
sulate. 

It did not take Nasrullah Khan long to find out the reason 
of this unpleasant change in their behaviour, and- he soon 
reported that all, save Hashim, had taken to themselves 
wives, AH, the fat boy of sixteen, leading the way. Cheap 
as is the married state in Kerman, yet their wages were not 
sufficient to keep their wives in the luxury which those ladies 
evidently demanded, and, as a consequence, they had to steal 
or run into debt. The cook and the grooms tried the former 
course, and, after a time, it became obvious to us that our 
horses were not in the condition that they had been. My 
brother accused Vali roundly of making away with their 
barley, and he replied in the plausible Persian way, "Let 



208 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the Sahib beat me if he will, or even kill me, but let him 
not accuse his servant of such a low crime as theft, for I have 
never learnt to steal." However, in spite of his protestations 
we superintended the daily feeds ourselves, and had the 
satisfaction of seeing our beloved horses improve in condition 
very soon. Fakir Mahomet had charge of the key of the 
barley-room, and was supposed to give out the day's supply 
before he went off to the Bazaar to do my housekeeping. 
But one day Vali was tracked to his house in the town by 
a long trail of corn, and it transpired that the syce had 
actually handed over the key of the store-room to him to 
help himself, as his only idea at this time was to spend the 
whole day in the society of his wife. Vali was dismissed on 
the spot, confessed everything, saying that he had stolen all 
he could since we had returned from the hills, and demanded 
with marvellous effrontery a character, as he said all grooms 
stole, and such a trifle should not weigh against him in 
obtaining a fresh situation. 

The other servants came in a body to beg for him to be 
taken back, and when they found that their pleadings had no 
effect, clubbed together to give him a sum of money to speed 
him on his way — all Persian servants being full of sympathy 
for a comrade who cheats his master. 

Our best servant was Hashim who, when blamed, however, 
used periodically to pack up all his belongings, announcing 
that he was going to leave us ; but these preparations for 
departure were merely a vent to his feelings, as he, in common 
with all the others, looked upon himself as the necessary man 
of our establishment, and greatly magnified his office. 

If we had been at Tehran he would most probably 
have left at an early stage of his acquaintance with us, 
and would then have vainly implored us to take him back 
again. 

He always rode the abdari horse on our expeditions, and 
having let it down twice from careless riding, he was exceed- 
ingly upset when found fault with, as he said that on both 
occasions some passer-by had audibly admired the handsome 
little animal and thus given it the evil eye. 



A PICNIC A T KERMAN 209 

An abdari pony (an animal specially bred for carrying 
water, as its name signifies) is a great Persian institution. 
It is like a miniature cart-horse and is loaded with two 
saddle-bags which contain the porous jars of water, dishes 
oipillau, and dried fruits, to form a Persian lunch. From one 
side hangs a bucket full of burning charcoal to supply the 
kalians and samovar, and from the other depends a thing 
like a wooden umbrella containing the skewers for roasting 
the kabob-i-sikh. The rider mounts upon a folded felt, and 
leans his back against a sort of leather box in which various 
provisions are stowed away, and it is incumbent on him to 
have a long stick with a metal knob stuck in somewhere in 
a conspicuous position. All the dishes and bottles have 
leather cases, so that it is a rare thing for articles to get 
broken. Persian gentlemen would never think of going out 
an ordinary afternoon ride unless accompanied by their 
abdari, for which they frequently give large sums. Friday, 
the Mohammedan Sunday, is the great day for taking 
exercise (?), and many were the family parties we used to 
come across ambling along very slowly. A servant would 
always precede his master, and was closely followed by the 
father and eldest son on horses, while younger scions of the 
house and a medley of retainers closed the procession be- 
striding mules and donkeys, very young boys being held in 
front of their special servants. The richer the family the 
more horses they displayed. The animal par excellence of 
Persia is the donkey, which is usually ridden by the mollahs 
and the merchant classes ; and at Kerman, at all events, it 
seemed to be within the reach of the humblest. The Persian 
donkey proper looks like a small edition of the animal that 
is to be seen in any costermonger's cart, and ought not to be 
confounded with the white Bahrein ass, big as a mule. 

It is the fashion in Persia for elderly gentlemen to 
ride Bahrein asses, which they consider equal in speed to 
horses ; but they are always careful to have a horse led by 
a servant, to show to the world that it is choice, not necessity, 
that makes them ride a donkey. Writing about donkeys 
leads one naturally to mention horses, and though Persia is 

15 



210 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

in a certain way the land of these noble animals, their quality 
bears not the smallest proportion to their quantity. 

To walk would be beneath the dignity of any Persian 
gentleman and also of his chief servants, and so perforce he 
has several horses, although for the most part they are mere 
ponies with no particular breeding about them. 

The Persian rides his horse with an exceedingly heavy bit, 
his great object being to pull it up and turn sharply — the 
mouths of all young horses bleeding till they get hard and 
callous and their quarters being frequently strained from the 
same cause. The high-peaked saddle, though comfortable, 
lifts the rider too far above his horse to control it properly, 
and instead of a whip he kicks its sides with his big iron 
shovel-stirrups. Though some of the nomad tribes ride 
capitally, yet all the city-bred Persians with whom it was 
my fate to come in contact, were miserable performers 
on horseback, some of them frankly confessing that they 
never allowed their horses to go out of the comfortable 
amble, universal in Persia, as they considered galloping so 
dangerous ! 

Towards the end of our stay at Kerman we had a little 
stud of ten horses, nearly every one of whom required many 
lessons from my brother to cure them of their tricks of 
flinging back their heads, " stumping," and taking exceedingly 
short strides, all attributable to the Persian bit, as were their 
hard mouths. 

Riding was our great pleasure, and it was fortunate for us 
that we could indulge freely in horseflesh, there not being 
many countries where five pounds will purchase a respectable 
mount, and where every one considered that thirty pounds 
was an enormous sum to pay for my beautiful Arab " Nawab," 
which was so profusely admired on all sides that it was quite 
a marvel how he managed to escape the evil eye, said to be 
so prevalent in Persia. 

Usually the horses were wiry little Arabs about fourteen 
hands high, plucky, enduring, and very easy to manage by 
their riders. None of them ever took exception to my habit- 
skirt, looking on it probably as a sort of variation of the 



A PICNIC AT KERMAN 211 

flapping Persian coats to which they were accustomed. They 
also adapted themselves at once to the light bridles with 
which we always rode them, and never made any objection 
to my side-saddle. 

The post and Gymkhana were our weekly dissipations, 
while we varied our rides with rifle-practice and occasionally 
long walks, these latter being somewhat tedious, there never 
being any particular point to make for, and it was dis- 
heartening to know that those hills, whose every boulder, 
seam, and tuft of vegetation we could see, were in reality 
several miles off. 



CHAPTER XVI 

LAST MONTHS AT KERMAN 

TOWARDS the end of October Kerman was visited by 
a violent thunderstorm, which considerably lowered 
the temperature, and covered all the higher mountain-peaks 
with snow. It became so chilly that we feared winter was 
beginning to set in, but were assured that a spell of cold 
weather in October, to be succeeded by warmth in November, 
was usually the case in Persia. 

The unaccustomed floods of rain converted the whole place 
into a muddy morass, making riding out of the question for 
some days, and doing a good deal of damage to all the 
mud-built houses in the place, so that we were glad when 
November brought us hot sunshine again. 

As winter approached it was a constant source of wonder 
to me as to what the jackals could find to eat. Perhaps my 
imagination had something to do with it, but certainly it 
seemed as if their howls had quite altered in character and 
become more despairing since the summer nights, when they 
made the round of the well-stocked gardens to devour the 
fruit. 

According to the Persians, whom I quote without looking 
upon them as especially accurate observers of natural history, 
the jackals, when they are half-famished during the winter, 
sit down in a circle, staring at one another. The first animal 
that dozes is at once torn to pieces and devoured by the 
others ; and thus the theory of the " survival of the fittest " 
is kept up. 

My brother and I wound up our picnic season with an 




KALAH-I-DUKTAR. 



LAST MONTHS AT KERMAN 213 

expedition to the Kalah-i-Duktar (maiden fortress), the 
remains of a savage-looking and almost inaccessible strong- 
hold, some ten miles to the north of Kerman, perched on the 
summit of a curious hill, cleft from crest to base, the sole 
mode of access being by climbing up this fissure. 

Probably the garrison only resorted to this eyrie in time of 
need, as the whole foot of the hill on which it was erected 
was covered with the remains of houses, enclosed with a high, 
castellated mud wall, with a gateway at its lowest point, and 
watch-towers at intervals. 

The citadel, now deserted and falling into decay, was sup- 
posed to have been inhabited by a band of robbers in the 
days when Kerman was a great commercial centre. From 
this point the bandits could command the caravan route 
across the great desert, and could swoop down at their ease 
upon the long strings of slowly moving camels laden with 
merchandise. 

It was by no means an easy task to penetrate this strong- 
hold, as after scrambling upwards over big boulders a wall of 
sheer rock had to be scaled. This I did not attempt, as my 
brother had his work cut out for him in hauling up our 
Persian guests one after the other over this steep place. 

Once on the summit they were disappointed to see little 
save the remains of water-tanks and fragments of mud walls, 
nor did a solitary Kufic inscription excite any emotion in 
their breasts. They were helped down again, and returned 
to enjoy their lunch, giving me highly coloured accounts of 
the dangers through which they had passed. I fancy that 
they allowed their imaginations to run riot when they reached 
home, for the Farman Farma begged my brother not to have 
a picnic in such a perilous locality again, as he felt sure that 
the lives of his suite had been seriously endangered ! 

That morning, just before starting off on our expedition, 
Fakir Mahomet came to us in great alarm, saying that a 
terrible creature was lurking among the boxes in the dark 
passage which led up to my store-room. As he affirmed 
that it was as big as a mule, and, moreover, that it had flown 
at him when he approached the store-room, our curiosity was 



214 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

naturally excited, and we went to see this marvel. In the 
semi-darkness there lay what looked like a huge dragon-fly 
on one of the boxes, and I rushed off for my insect-net and 
lethal bottle, full of excitement at getting a novel " find," 
imploring every one to keep their distances, as it might fly 
away if disturbed. My brother took the net and brought it 
right down on the object, which made an odd rattling noise. 
The syce pulled me back hastily as I tried to inspect it, 
begging me, in heartrending tones, not to go near. I 
advanced, however, and to my amusement and astonishment 
saw a little cardboard-winged dragon, coloured green and 
yellow. My brother and I laughed heartily, but the syce 
fled in a panic of terror as I picked it up. It had come out 
from home in one of my boxes, but as I had never set eyes 
on it during the seven months I had been at Kerman, its 
appearance at that time and in that place will ever remain a 
mystery. I took it upstairs to the sitting-room, and in a 
short time all our servants had assembled on the terrace 
outside and were peeping nervously in through the open 
window at the toy as it lay quietly on a table, the syce 
leading the party and giving realistic details of the way in 
which the " mule hysena," as he called it, had sprung at him. 
I laughed at the men, and, to show them how harmless it 
was, took up my dimunitive dragon, whereupon a regular 
stampede ensued. A few days after this episode some of 
our Persian friends came to tea, and we told them the story, 
producing the little pasteboard creature, so that they might 
enjoy the joke with us. To our surprise, however, they were 
all obviously nervous of it, and only after some persuasion 
the boldest gentleman was induced to touch it, which he did 
most gingerly, another turning to ask me in what part of the 
world dragons had their habitation, and not at all con- 
vinced when I declined to assign a locality to these fabulous 
monsters. 

At the end of November we went for three or four 
days' shooting in the hills, and chose a place called 
Baserjun, one of the wildest and dreariest camping grounds 
I have ever seen. We were in a long defile, the ground 



LAST MONTHS AT KERMAN 215 

covered with boulders, and the debris from the hills that shut 
us in, while the pink Kupayeh Range rose like a long jagged 
plateau, frowning down upon our tents. As my brother was 
after wild sheep during this trip, and these animals frequent 
the lower ground, while the ibex choose the most inaccessible 
parts for their haunts, I was able to accompany him into a 
world of brilliantly coloured mud hills, with conglomerate 
cropping out of their sides. Among these a few herds of 
goats were feeding, and one day, as we were up aloft, far 
above them, we heard the most blood-curdling yells. Our 
shikarchi, looking keenly down into the valley, announced 
that a wolf had just carried off a goat, the boy in charge of 
the herd waking the echoes with his cries to such an extent 
that it was difficult to believe that he himself was not the 
victim. It was wonderful to see the agility of these hunts- 
men. In long, blue cotton blouses, sheepskin jackets, and 
their legs bound in puttis, they ran up and down the hills in 
search of game, grievously disappointed when nothing was 
disclosed to their keen eyes. We kept below in the valley 
for the most part, and one could not but remark on the great 
silence and lifelessness in these barren mountains. Not an 
insect was to be seen, save perhaps a beetle or two ; occa- 
sionally a vulture hovered noiselessly over our heads, ana 
sometimes near the brackish streams, which looked as if 
icebound, such broad belts of salt lay on their banks, a small 
covey of partridges would fly up. I came upon bleached 
tortoise-shells, and here and there the quills of a porcupine, 
but of wild sheep there seemed to be none, and our shi- 
karchis got quite in despair, and gloomily squatted near us 
for a rest after all their efforts. Suddenly, almost as if they 
were close to us, instead of being about a quarter of a mile 
away, so clearly could we see them in the pure atmosphere, a 
herd of six or eight moufflon sprang one after another down 
from a hill, and were off and out of sight before we could get 
to our feet, the chase that ensued being a failure. The nights 
in tents were now very cold, and as the evenings drew in 
early I was thankful to be back again at home, the servants 
more delighted than I, as they found camp life always very 



216 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

tedious, lying about and gossiping all day long, with frequent 
interludes of a concertina performance by the syce, and a 
topical song composed by Hashim concerning us and our 
doings, with a good deal of mention of the hard lot of the 
Sahib's servants. 

Kerman was notorious even among Persian cities for the 
number of its beggars, and during the winter we were there 
the Prince organised a scheme for relieving them, which 
is worth mentioning, as I have never heard of any other 
Persian, be he royal or the reverse, doing the like. He 
issued so many hundreds of lithographed tickets monthly, 
and each of these entitled the recipient to so many pounds 
of bread, which was made at a certain bakery in the town. 
To prevent abuse as far as possible, the Prince sent his 
officers down to the shop to take bread from it by haphazard 
daily, and insisted on having this mixture of millet and 
barley-flour on his own table. He furthermore forced all his 
suite and the gentry of Kerman to buy tickets from him for 
distribution, telling each man how many tomans' worth he 
was expected to take. My brother, as Consul, had six 
hundred tickets to give away monthly, and at first used to 
bestow them on the few beggars at our gate, as we went out 
for our afternoon rides. However, the little knot of ten or a 
dozen soon swelled to one or two hundred, and as we did not 
wish to dispose of every ticket before the month had half run 
out, we resorted to the expedient of having a fixed day for 
giving them, choosing Sundays. When we went out for our 
weekly walk, the horses, which we rode on all other days, 
being led in solemn procession after us, we would see outside 
our garden a ragged, dirty, voluble crowd of beggars, which my 
brother ordered to squat down in rows while he distributed 
the tickets. I always stayed inside until the ceremony was 
over and the crowds had dispersed, leaving a cloud of dust 
behind them. 

On one occasion my brother left them to return to the 
house for more tickets, as the hundred he had taken with 
him had all been used up. He put a soldier in charge, but 
the moment his presence was removed every beggar sprang 




BREAD TICKET ISSUED BY THE FARM AX FARMA. 



LAST MONTHS A T KERMAN 217 

up, and on his return he was surrounded by a howling, 
yelling mob, the worst members of which were the women, 
who at the best of times were adepts in the art of changing 
their places so as to get a second or even a third ticket. 
They surged round him, pulling his clothes, screaming, 
whirling up the dust, and trying to snatch the tickets from 
him, until he was obliged to retreat, further distribution being 
out of the question, and the soldiers promptly barricaded the 
garden door against the imperious hordes outside. 

I never thought that the destitution among these beggars 
was at all extreme, as they were always in such capital 
spirits, not seeming in the least degree depressed by their 
life and its surroundings. Of course among the crowd there 
was a percentage of aged people, blind folk, and poor 
wretches with manifold complaints, who were always pro- 
vided for first of all ; but the large majority were eager and 
active in their movements, a considerable proportion being 
young women, apparently well fed, and by no means in rags. 

Kerman is, on the whole, a very favourable locality for the 
poor. The sun saves them from the need of fires and much 
clothing ; very little rain falls ; lodgings are to be had 
without payment, and it is possible to live in comfort on a 
penny a day. 

It is considered most unlucky to turn beggars away frorrt 
the door unless they are given something, be it only an onion 
or a scrap of bread. If a child of the house is ailing two or 
three krans in copper money are put under its pillow at 
night, and in the morning the coins are given to the mendi- 
cants making their rounds, the child's complaint having been 
supposed to have passed into the money ; and of course, as 
is natural, the beggars are not forgotten at the festive seasons 
of marriage or the birth of a son. 

Christmas was now approaching fast, and I found our 
pretty house a very chilly winter residence. As we expected 
to leave Kerman after the New Year, and travel, my brother 
thought it would be wiser to forswear fires altogether, fearing 
that if we got accustomed to them we should probably get ill 
when our tent life began. So in the house we wrapped 



218 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ourselves up in furs and long-lined boots as if equipped for 
an Arctic expedition, dressing far more lightly when we went 
out, as it was always warm in the brilliant sunshine. The 
servants, on the other hand, indulged in fires, and caught bad 
colds and chills, calling for all our skill in doctoring. Bargi 
went about in the same thin cotton garments that she affected 
during the summer heats, and of course got ill. I had pre- 
sented her with some woollen clothes on the occasion of our 
tour in the hills, but she had actually not donned them in 
this bitter weather, and when I demanded the reason, she 
could only reply that she thought they were given her for a 
journey, and must not be used on any other occasion, and, 
moreover, the flimsy coverings she wore were the dastiir, or 
custom, of her people. 

She developed a " churchyard " cough, and had a great 
oppression on her chest, which I tried to cure with a mustard 
poultice. Unluckily it blistered her skin, and she bathed the 
affected part with cold water to relieve the heat which my 
remedy had engendered. Either her remedy or mine was 
too drastic a one, for her skin seemed as if burnt, and 
although she suffered me to dress her chest, yet she was 
convinced in her own mind that Feringhee doctoring was a 
disastrous failure, and, taking French leave, went home with 
all her effects. No message on my part could induce her to 
return. 

On the third day after her departure, she suddenly reap- 
peared in the best of tempers with herself and all the world, 
bursting into fits of laughter when she approached me. This 
peculiar conduct was, I suspect, to conceal a considerable 
nervousness on her part as to what her reception would be ; 
but I was far too thankful to see her looking so well to be 
able to reprove her, and could not help being further molli- 
fied when she assured me that she had never removed my 
dressings, in spite of the remonstrances of her aged mother. 
This lady had doctored her daughter with an infallible 
Parsee cure for burns, which was simple, if not effective, it 
merely being to drink quantities of pomegranate juice. 

Just about this time we received letters from Meshed, 



LAST MONTHS A T KERMAN 219 

telling us that two Germans, who were making a walking 
tour round the world, were on their way to Kerman, and 
would probably reach that city very shortly. 

On the morning of Christmas Eve a couple of alert figures, 
clad in dark green Tyrolese costumes, with big cloaks hang- 
ing over their shoulders, walked into our courtyard, and the 
famous pedestrians were with us. 

Herr Kogel and Herr Stupp hoped to accomplish their 
formidable journey in less than two years, and were spurred 
on to their efforts by the prospect of winning 10,000 dollars 
should they be successful. The former had left San Fran- 
cisco in June, 1894, with a Herr Thorner as his companion, 
walking with him across America and part of Europe, but 
had been forced to leave him behind at Bucharest on account 
of illness. However, while crossing the St. Gothard Pass, 
the two comrades had encountered Herr Stupp, a mere boy ; 
and this historic meeting was immortalised in a photo, in 
which the long cloaks, Tyrolese hats, alpenstocks and re- 
volvers of the heroes played a great part. 

The visiting-card of Herr Stupp struck me as somewhat 
original. 



^r Heinrich Stupp Jn. 

Fusstourist um die Welt 
Start : Munchen 31st July 1895. 

1st Dauerwanderer Europa's 

Meisterschaftsgeher der Rheinlande 

Mitglied des Wander-Club "Fortuna" 

v Koeln am Rhein. 4 

\ .4+ 



The journals carried by both igentlemen were full of auto- 
graphs of consuls, police officials, magistrates, hotel-keepers, 
and so on, most of whom inscribed some laudatory remarks 
with their names, compatriots usually bursting out into 
poetry — one, for example, beginning his effusion with " Stupp 



220 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

und Kogel, Wander vogel." The " young heroes," as they 
were frequently named by their enthusiastic fellow-country- 
men, had, according to the terms of their wager, started with- 
out a penny in their pockets, trusting to their wits to help 
them on their way. These latter, or perhaps rather the 
newspapers, did them good service throughout America and 
Europe. On their entry into any town they were met by 
officials, who conducted them in carriages to see all the sights 
of the place, depositing them finally at a first-class hotel, 
where they were given the best accommodation without dis- 
bursing a sou. Clothes and money appeared to have flowed 
in in abundance, and, as they were permitted to sell their 
portraits for fancy prices, apparently they were never short 
of cash. At Vienna they had given accounts of their journey 
to crowded audiences, who escorted them back to their hotel 
in triumphal procession ; and they informed me that they had 
had interviews with princes and even with crowned heads — all 
of which experiences they had recorded in their diaries, which 
were to appear as books of travel on their return to their 
native lands. They had found travelling in Persia very 
different from being feted in Europe, and had had a trying 
time from Askabad, via Meshed, to Kerman, bread and water 
being their principal food, and the one thin blanket they 
carried being quite inadequate to the rigours of a Persian 
winter. We lodged them with our friend the merchant, 
Meshtedi Mehdi, in the town, sending down bedding, 
furniture, and stores to supplement what they could get 
at his house ; and they spent a week at Kerman in seeing 
the sights and repairing their scanty wardrobes. 

My brother and I had been anxious for some time to have 
a real Christmas dinner, but the beef was the stumbling-block, 
as none was to be obtained in Kerman. However, we procured 
a calf as a substitute, and it was fattened up and picketed 
in a remote corner of the garden, so that we should not be 
tempted to make a pet of it. From some cause or other 
it did not do much credit to its feeding, and looked such a 
meagre little animal that Nasrullah Khan felt it was unworthy 
to grace our festal board. Ever since we had been at 



LAST MONTHS AT KERMAN 221 

Kerman we had hired a cow from our gardener, and, as 
is the custom in Persia, this animal had its calf tied up 
within hail of it, and about half the milk was always left 
for the calf to drink after we had been served with our 
strictly limited supply. Consequently it was a most sturdy, 
well-nourished creature, and just before Christmas Day 
Nasrullah Khan cast his eye upon it. He sent the gardener 
off to the Bazaar on some pretext or other and then gave the 
order to execute the wrong calf, as if by mistake. He was 
narrating this to us during lunch with much glee, when the 
gardener appeared at the open doorway, evidently under the 
influence of some strong emotion, his weeping wife peeping 
over his shoulder. " I understand now why you sent me 
off to the Bazaar," he said reproachfully to Nasrullah Khan, 
whose well-feigned surprise fell flat, the man clearly seeing 
that he had been duped ; and he and his helpmate broke out 
into violent sobbings. 

A few questions elicited the fact that this exhibition of 
sorrow at the loss of his favourite was entirely due to 
mercenary causes, and when he was offered ample amends 
he became more than reconciled to our mirzcts " mistake." 

We found this "young beef" most excellent eating when 
we had our Christmas party. The Prince and some of his 
suite with the two Germans came to share the turkey, plum- 
pudding, and mince-pies, and I was pleased at the success 
of my culinary efforts ; the Persians being unable to disguise 
their astonishment on the entry of the plum-pudding encircled 
with flames. 

We instructed them in the art of pouring burning brandy 
over their mince-pies, and they dignified these delicacies 
with the title of firework puddings. 

His Highness was deeply interested in our European 
guests, and I had to work hard as interpreter, as the latter 
could only speak German. The Prince wished to ask them 
all sorts of personal questions — such as the trades of their 
respective fathers, the incomes of those gentlemen, as to 
how long they intended to honour Kerman with their pre- 
sence, and so on — and it required a considerable exercise 



222 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

of tact on my part to satisfy him without wounding their 
feelings. 

He was impressed at their novel methods of travelling, and 
turning to my brother said he would much like to make such 
a tour " on the cheap " with him. The Germans took them- 
selves very seriously, and when the time for toasts came 
round, they clinked their glasses with ours fervently, walking 
round the table so as to omit no one, and Herr Kogel broke 
forth into a fine speech. He said that fifty thousand {sic) 
people were thinking of him and his friend on this festive 
night, and were probably picturing them as wandering forlorn 
in some pathless desert, whereas — and he then gave us some 
gracefully turned phrases anent the hospitality of Kerman ! 
After dinner the Prince wrote in Persian characters in their 
respective autograph-books, and, producing my guitar, we 
sang some of the well-known German " Folkslieder " ; and so 
ended my second Christmas Day in Persia. 

On the day after Christmas we had the pleasure of 
welcoming Count Magnis to Kerman. He had travelled 
from Tehran, vid Isfahan and Yezd, and as, until the arrival 
of Messrs. Stupp and Kogel, we had seen no Europeans for 
over six months, we greatly appreciated his society. 

He was somewhat surprised to find compatriots in this out- 
of-the-way part of Persia ; but these latter left us shortly, 
to finish in India and Japan the remainder of the 12,700 
miles that they had yet to traverse on their feet. 

Speeded on their way by the Prince and my brother, they 
made for the port of Bander Abbas, intending to take steamer 
from there to Karachi; and some time later on we caught 
a glimpse of them in an Indian paper, which spoke of 
their doings as " apostolic " — a singularly ill-chosen word to 
apply to men who were in quest of money and notoriety. 
They lost their wager after all, being unable to reach San 
Francisco by the appointed time, and we could not feel 
altogether sorry at the failure, as their peculiar mode of 
travelling would have considerably lowered European 
prestige in Persia if many had been inspired to follow their 
example. 



LAST MONTHS A T KERMAN 223 

Just at the end of December the news that a Boundary 
Commission was being formed to delimitate the last piece of 
frontier between the Indian and Persian Empires reached 
us. 

My brother hoped to be put on this Commission, as the 
boundary line would run between his consular district of 
Persian Baluchistan and British Baluchistan, but our orders 
did not come for some time. However, I did my utmost to 
get ready, in case we were sent off in a hurry, packing many 
boxes of stores, writing lists of their contents, numbering 
them, and so on. 

But the days passed by, and no tidings of any sort came ; 
and just after the New Year the Persian Commissioner 
arrived on his way from Tehran to the frontier and came 
to call. Years ago Mirza Asraf Ali had been with the late 
Sir Oliver St. John on the Sistan Commission, and he was in 
consequence quite accustomed to mixing with Europeans. 
We found him a most pleasant man of about sixty, straight, 
and well set-up, his clean-shaven face having a curiously 
ascetic look, somewhat belied, however, by the twinkle in his 
humorous eyes. Unfortunately he had forgotten all his 
French, if indeed he had ever known much ; but a certain 
Haji Khan accompanied him as interpreter, a gentleman 
whose English "as she is spoke" was very amusing. We 
were both anxious to be " on the march " again. Kerman 
was cold and somewhat dreary at this season of the year ; 
the Farman Farma and his suite were busied with prepara- 
tions for an immediate departure to the warmth of Khabis, 
where palms and orange-trees flourished only thirty miles off, 
and I felt disappointed when the Persian Commissioner — the 
Itisham, as his title was — left us on his long journey to the 
frontier to join Colonel Holdich and the other officers of the 
Boundary Commission. 

However, we were not kept long in suspense. A telegram 
came from the Minister ordering my brother to start for the 
frontier as soon as possible after the arrival of a gholam with 
instructions and maps from Tehran ; and on the afternoon of 
January 13th the expected messenger galloped into the Con- 



224 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

sulate, having accomplished the six hundred miles from the 
capital in record time. 

My delight was somewhat tempered by the whirl and 
turmoil of packing ; for we settled to start off early on 
January 15th, and although I had made most of my pre- 
parations in the way of stores beforehand, yet the house 
had to be dismantled ; all our carpets, embroideries and 
skins done up to be forwarded to England ; arrangements 
made with Mehdi to look after our furniture, as we were 
giving up our house ; and the camp equipment to be super- 
vised. Luckily for me a box of dresses arrived from England 
at this crisis, as it was impossible to tell into what civilised 
parts this journey might lead us. 

My brother was occupied with the weighty question of 
transport — a matter made easy in this case by the friendship 
of the Prince, who generously placed his own camels at the 
Consul's disposal. We engaged about fifty of these animals, 
loading them lightly, as they would be obliged to carry 
forage and water when we reached the desert stages of 
our journey. 

The Farman Farma had left his citadel in the town, and, 
after the custom of all Persians when about to travel, had 
taken a pavilion outside, the better to collect his servants and 
belongings. As his garden adjoined ours, a large breach was 
speedily made in the mud wall between them, and his High- 
ness gave us a good deal of his society, dining with us 
without ceremony, and inviting us in return to repasts in 
one of the prettiest rooms I ever entered in Persia, a large 
apartment entirely decorated with mirror-work (that is, bits of 
looking-glass arranged in intricate patterns on stucco-work), 
and having two rows of elaborately carved niches, in which 
Persians place quinces, being much addicted to their 
perfume. 

The Prince's band played to us throughout these evenings, 
some of the airs being very pleasing, especially the Farman 
Farma's own song, verses of which were sung at intervals by 
the band with great spirit, his Highness usually joining in 
the chorus. This song was composed in honour of his father, 



LAST MONTHS A T KERMAN 225 

and to Western ears the opening line is the reverse of compli- 
mentary — 

" Good Heavens ! what a tyrant thou art ! " 

This being repeated with every chorus ad infinitum. 

After dinner kalians and tea were handed round at 
intervals, all the Persian guests partaking of three or four 
cups of the latter beverage, which habit perhaps may account 
for the nightmares of which they used naively to complain. 

And so ended, amidst many a warm farewell, our life 
at Kerman — a time so pleasant, so full of interest for me, that 
I shall ever look back upon it as one of the happiest of my 
existence. The charm of novelty had been upon it, and we 
had enjoyed life to the utmost in a superb climate — a climate 
which seemed to endow us with such energy that we could 
well afford to laugh at and make a joke of the hundred and 
one worries inseparable from trying to force a European 
establishment on Orientals who refuse to take kindly to the 
niceties of civilisation. I regretted that this part of my life 
had now come to an end, and yet we were both glad to be off, 
for both of us felt strongly the charms of a nomadic existence, 
and desired nothing better than to be on the march again. 



16 



CHAPTER XVII 

GOODBYE TO KERMAN 

THE morning of January 15 th dawned cold and grey, and 
our last partings with the Prince and the members of 
his suite took place. The Farman Farma was much affected 
at saying goodbye to my brother, his feelings for whom he 
thus described to me : " I love my dear Sykes to such a 
degree that whenever I see him I long to throw my arms 
round his neck and embrace him." Seeing my involuntary 
smile, he added hastily, " But I don't do it because I know 
that the English do not like being kissed, although it is with 
difficulty that I refrain." I myself had quite a harrowing 
scene with a green-trousered lady who was wont to undertake 
our weekly washing. I had ordered a small backsheesh, to be 
handed over to her as a farewell gift, and was horrified when 
she presented herself plunged in violent grief, sobbing con- 
vulsively, as she seized my hands to cover them with kisses, 
protesting that her heart was " pierced with many needles " 
at my departure ; that to see me every week had been the 
great joy of her life, and that she could not live without 
that entrancing vision ! " Send away Bargi ! " she cried 
dramatically. " She is not worthy to attend on you. Take me 
instead, who love you so much more ! " All this was most 
embarrassing to me, as my acquaintance with her had always 
been of the slightest, and my attempts to calm her unreason- 
ing sorrow brought on fresh accesses of the most despairing 
and heartrending howls. 

I myself felt sad at heart at leaving the place where I had 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 227 

been so well content ; but there were too many last things to 
arrange for me to dwell much on my own feelings. I had to 
soothe Bargi's mother, who had come up to commend her 
daughter to me in a series of moving appeals, and I could 
not help having a nervous fear lest Bargi herself might cry 
off at the last moment, surrounded as she was with weeping 
relatives and children. However, she stuck to her mistress 
nobly, and we rode away down the avenue amid the crowds 
assembled to see us off, while Sultan Sukru distributed 
coppers for the last time to all the beggars of Kerman, 
who showered blessings on our heads as we passed along. 
Outside the gate many personal friends were in waiting 
for a last word, and some accompanied us across the hill- 
encircled plain which would lead us out on to the road to 
Mahun, where we were to stop for that night. We reined up 
and halted at the last point from which we could get a 
glimpse of our late home, of the white-columned house and 
leafless garden which had become very dear to me ; and as 
we looked a host of pleasant memories came rushing into my 
mind. The wide desert brought back the remembrance of 
many a glorious gallop ; of many a merry picnic or 
Gymkhana meeting ; of many an exciting insect-hunt ; of 
many a photographing expedition ; while the mud domes 
and blue cupolas of the city meant for me the Oriental 
life in which I was so keenly interested; and the sight of 
the ruined fortresses recalled the legend and history of 
Old Kerman. However, the feeling of depression did not 
last long when once we had fairly started on our journey 
of six hundred miles to the frontier. And perhaps what 
distracted my thoughts more than anything else was the 
fact that I was riding a new horse for the first time — a 
horse that had never had a lady on its back before, or a 
side-saddle and English bridle ; and to me there are few 
things more interesting than to get the mastery over a 
spirited animal, and to establish that delightful sympathy 
which makes the rider and his steed as one. So hurrah 
for the road again ! hurrah for nomadic existence ! and 
hurrah for the Wanderlust that lurks in each man's blood, 



228 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

which drives our English race so far from home and kindred 
over the face of the globe ! 

After waiting a couple of days in the fairy garden of 
Mahun for our caravan of camels to collect, we set off for 
Hanaka, and although we began our journey during the forty 
days which constitute the cold weather of Kerman, yet we 
found the sun almost too hot for comfort in the middle of 
the day ; and I was seldom able to dispense with my veil and 
blue glasses. 

Our servants had professed to be filled with horror at the 
idea of travelling through the dreaded country of Balu- 
chistan, but when it came to the point they were greatly 
reassured at the sight of our seventy camels loaded with 
supplies of rice, sugar, rogan, and so on, infinitely preferring 
the " rough-and-tumble " existence of camp life to the regular 
work of a settled household. 

At Hanaka we had to lodge in a serai, which word recalls 
Omar Khayyam's comparison of this mortal life to such a 
building when he says — 

" Think, in this battered Caravanserai, 
Whose doorways are alternate Night and Day, 
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp 
Abode his Hour or two and went his way." 

Our particular " hotel " was fairly good for Persia, though 
the small brick rooms was doorless and windowless. My 
vaulted apartment was blackened with the smoke of years ; 
a big heap of mud and straw was swept up into one corner of 
it, while two large archways opened on to the courtyard ; and 
even when these were curtained off I found my room an 
exceedingly chilly one, especially when, towards evening, an 
icy wind began to blow. I consoled myself, however, with 
the thought that we were travelling with all speed towards a 
warmer climate, and that the cold, unpleasant though it was, 
kept the tarantulas and scorpions, which probably abounded 
here, safe in their winter quarters. 

It was certainly a trial to have to turn out before sunrise 



GOODBYE TO HERMAN 229 

in the bitter weather with the thermometer some degrees 
below freezing-point ; but we walked a considerable distance 
to warm ourselves along the banks of a frozen stream, my 
brother forcing the reluctant servants to do likewise, as they 
lay, shapeless bundles of wraps, on their respective mules, 
their heads bound up in many cloths. No Persian will ever 
walk a step if he can ride, having no idea of sparing his 
mount in any way, and they always looked upon my brother 
and me as lunatics for walking when we possessed plenty of 
horses. 

Rayin, our destination, looked a very different place from 
the tree-embowered village we had halted at during the 
summer, and it was pathetic to see the one sign of life, the 
almond-trees in full bloom, as we could not but feel that the 
year's crop would in all likelihood be ruined by the prema- 
ture appearance of the lovely blossoms in such weather. We 
arranged things from now onwards in a very comfortable 
way, halting for an hour or two about eleven to eat the 
lunch which Haslim produced out of his capacious saddle- 
bags, and when we reached the end of the day's march we 
found preparations for afternoon tea in full swing, our second 
waiter having gone on ahead with the caravan of mules. 

One of our longest marches was to Khanakhartun, some 
four days after we had left Kerman. It was about thirty-five 
miles from our last halting-place, so we had to start betimes 
in the chilly darkness that precedes the dawn. Of the 
scenery during our journey I cannot say much ; for the 
greater part of Persia has a curious monotony about it. A 
series of plains, great or small, separated from one another by 
low passes in the hills, seems to be the prevailing charac- 
teristic. The plains are usually completely barren, unless 
there be a rare stream of water which produces grass and 
willows on its banks, and so relieves the deadly sameness of 
the landscape ; and the mountains only compensate for their 
sterility by their beautiful colouring and often quaint 
configuration. 

The traveller may have to caravan across one of these 
plains for days, always riding in the direction of some pass in 



230 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the encircling chain of hills, and when he has reached and 
surmounted his goal, lo and behold ! another plain is stretch- 
ing at his feet, probably almost identical with the one he has 
traversed, and so on ad infinitum. 

On this particular occasion we had the rare phenomenon 
of a river to diversify our route ; and on leaving it found 
ourselves in a weird country. Clusters of mud hills rose up, 
moulded into a hundred fantastic forms. Cathedrals, castles, 
fairy palaces, coloured in all shades of ochre and green, met 
our astonished eyes. Here, quaint mud pinnacles threatened 
to topple over ; there, a monstrous excrescence, shaped like 
an owl's head with enormous hollowed-out eyes, appeared to 
be glaring at us ; while toads and curious prehistoric creatures 
seemed to be poised everywhere on the sides or summits of 
these queer hillocks. The whole scene was dominated by a 
ruined fortress, which so closely resembled many of the rocks 
around that it took us some time to make up our minds as to 
whether it was natural or artificial. It was a most uncanny 
region, fit abode for witches and hobgoblins, and I should 
have been sorry to have been wandering about alone in the 
dead silence, only broken by a stream, which rushed along its 
deeply cut bed with a most disagreeable hollow groaning. 
The grotesque shapes on the hillsides seemed to grin and 
gibe at us ; and it needed only a slight effort of the imagina- 
tion to enable me to see the huge saurians writhe and the 
monstrous toads begin to creep towards us — such a nightmare 
of a country it was ! 

Our destination this night was a Persian camp. The 
Farman Farma had sent on part of his army from Kerman 
to arrange supplies and forage for him, and our friend, fat 
Haji Khan, was in command of the detachment. It seemed 
for a time as if we had quite lost our way among these 
bewildering hills, and darkness was coming on before we 
espied the gleam of tents and the ruddy glow of bonfires, 
and heard Haji Khan's welcome salutations. Tents had 
been erected in readiness for us ; and I was thankful to retire 
to mine, as it was over twelve hours since we started off that 
morning. 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 231 

But a night in a Persian camp is not by any means a 
restful experience to a novice, owing to the fact that every 
Persian soldier on the march carries his kit on a donkey, and 
the hundreds of these animals keep up such an incessant 
braying that even the seven sleepers of Ephesus would have 
been hard put to it not to have awakened from their slumbers. 

When one further remembers that the groaning of camels, 
the crackling and replenishing of the wood fires, the chatting 
of the men bivouacking round them, and the wail of uncouth 
musical instruments are all items added to the asinine concert, 
the reader will not wonder that none of our party felt much 
refreshed on the following day. 

On the next morning we were escorted for some distance 
on our way by our host and a troop of horsemen, and as 
soon as we emerged on to the inevitable plain we saw in the 
far distance our goal, the Kalah-i-sang of Abarik, a striking 
looking mud-brick fortress on the crest of a black shale rock 
rising up abruptly from the ground, and said in local legends 
to have been built in prehistoric times by Bahman, son of 
Isfundiah. 

The little village of Abarik is almost entirely encircled 
with range behind range of low hills and snow-crested moun- 
tains, and its position has given rise to a Persian saying, 
"The wind was asked one day where its home might be. 
It answered, ' I often make expeditions to Tahrud and Sar- 
vistan, but my abiding resting-place is Abarik.' " Owing to 
this predilection of the wind the houses here are low and 
more squalid than most in Persia ; and our quarters for the 
night were practically underground, my room being entered 
by crawling through a low door. A limited supply of light 
and air was provided by means of a hole knocked in its roof, 
and I fancy that I must have ousted a previous occupant 
from it, for a large dog banged violently at my door during 
the night, and when he found that his efforts to get in were 
fruitless he rushed up on to the mud roof, and exhausted 
himself in barking down at me through my air-hole, scrab- 
bling at it with his paws until the loosened mud fell in showers 
into the room, making me fear lest my would-be visitor might 



232 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

effect an entrance if he persevered long enough. We were 
still in the country of legend, for at Deharzin (" the place of 
the gallows "), our next halt, the story went that the village 
once belonged to the mighty Rustem, who had killed the 
son of the King of Persia. Bahman, the then Shah, bent on 
revenge, descended with an army on Deharzin, but finding 
Rustem dead took his son Feramouz as a substitute, and 
hanged him on a lofty gibbet. 

It was only a week since we had left Kerman, travelling 
south-east, and gradually leaving snowy peaks and ice-bound 
brooks behind us, and now we were at Bam with its famous 
fortress, second to none in the estimation of the Persians, and, 
as a rule, jealously guarded. Bam was the frontier town of 
Persia before the annexation of Baluchistan. It was a new 
land that we had entered, a land of feathery palm-trees, and 
many a running stream bordered with lush grass and waving 
pampas, while numerous mud-domed villages, peeping out 
of groves of graceful palms, dotted the plain. Bam was 
embowered in these lovely trees, over which I waxed enthu- 
siastic, to the amusement of my brother, who warned me 
that I should cease to admire them so much when I under- 
stood that their presence meant heat, and was invariably 
connected with an abnormal degree of dirt and squalor among 
their inhabitants. However, it appeared to me that I had 
hardly been in the real East until now, the palms recalling 
a hundred pictures of Biblical scenes, familiar to me from 
childhood, and also seeming to bring with them the mystery 
and glamour of the Orient, the dark passions, secret intrigues 
and terrible revenges which have ever fascinated the colder 
imagination of the West. At every moment I expected to 
see shadowy, gliding figures stealing on their way to carry 
out some wild vengeance with the dagger or the poison-bowl ; 
and every veiled woman I passed, engaged in the prosaic 
duty of shopping in the little bazaar, was possibly the heroine 
of some weird romance to my excited fancy. 

Several notables of Bam, among whom was our old friend 
Asadilla Khan, rode out to meet us and escort us to our 
quarters by way of the main street of the town, a dried-up 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 233 

watercourse. The ubiquitous palm was used to build the 
booths where rice and sweetmeats were sold, and its leaves 
formed a rough thatching for these shelters, or were woven 
into porches in front of many a doorway. At last we reached 
a partly built mud house in a small garden of palms, and it 
was a relief to get indoors, for the sun was oppressively hot, 
and during the next two or three days we found the heat 
most trying, although the thermometer only stood at 76 . 
We had made too sudden a plunge into the warm country, 
which was being visited just then by an unusually early spell 
of hot weather, and my brother, who, from his long residence 
in the East, was very susceptible to the sun, got a violent 
headache and giddiness, making me feel most anxious, as 
sunstrokes are of common occurrence in this region. How- 
ever, next day he was so much better that he and Count 
Magnis went off to inspect the celebrated fortress, the 
Governor having specially invited them to visit it, a privilege 
probably never before accorded to a European. 

It was in this stronghold that the gallant Zend Prince 
Lutf AH Khan was captured after his flight from Kerman. 
Betrayed by the Governor in whom he had trusted, he was 
put to death by the ferocious Agha Muhammed Khan (the 
founder of the present dynasty), who, it is affirmed, blinded 
him first with his own hands before sending him to Tehran 
to be strangled. My brother was allowed to take photos of 
the interior of the huge mass, which is built on a mountain 
spur dominating the town, and in its stern strength contrasts 
strikingly with the feathery palms ever swaying and waving 
far below it. 

Despite its beauty, I was glad to quit Bam, being always 
kept more or less a prisoner when staying in a town, as my 
brother considered that the appearance of the first European 
woman who had ever been in these parts excited too much 
comment in the streets. Moreover, romantic as was our 
garden of palms, yet no cool breeze sprang up to soothe us 
during the hot, airless nights, save now and again a gust of 
burning wind, which whirled clouds of dust through the 
paneless windows of our unfurnished mud rooms. 



234 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

When the town at last lay behind us, we struck across a 
vast, grey, gravelly plain some forty miles broad, and destitute 
of vegetation save where it was traversed by a small stream, 
which bore a wealth of dates, pampas grass, or tamarisk 
shrubs on its banks ; the narrow belt of dense, vividly 
coloured vegetation forming a strong contrast to the dreary 
waste stretching away for miles on either side of it. 

Camels were browsing here and there, and the sight of the 
ungainly animals made me realise in what a different part 
of the country we were now travelling. Hitherto we had 
journeyed with mules, which were clean and quick-stepping 
in comparison with the evil smelling, slowly moving " ships 
of the desert." But now we were on the borders of Balu- 
chistan, in a country for the most part the " abomination of 
desolation," where a mule could not well survive the intense 
heats of the summer and autumn, and, above all, would die 
of starvation on the apparently barren plains, where the 
camel flourishes on the abundant thorn. Our servants, only 
accustomed to mules, were most reluctant at first to mount 
these unknown creatures, the awkward shuffling gait of which 
made many of them violently sick at the commencement ; 
but in a short time they got quite used to them, guiding them 
with the nose-rope and a light switch, or falling fast asleep 
on their backs if they formed one of a long string, and it was 
curious to see our grooms perched up aloft leading the horses 
alongside, the latter looking mere pigmies, so dwarfed were 
they by their tall escorts. There are few things more 
unpleasant than to get entangled in a crowd of camels during 
the loading-up process. The groaning and roaring of the 
animals and their disagreeable odour are bad enough ; but 
one has besides to run the gauntlet of many a bite or kick. 
A camel's long neck can reach inconveniently far, and the 
stroke of his springy pad is a thing to be carefully avoided 
by those who wish to keep their bones whole. 

From now onwards oxen were largely used as beasts of 
burden, men riding them or leading them heavily loaded. 
In a country where time is no object they are not to be 
despised as a mode of locomotion ; but their sluggish 




THE LUNCHEON CAMEL. 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 235 

pace must, I should fancy, try the patience of even an 
Oriental. 

We reached Burj two days later, and here we were struck 
with the great size to which the tamarisk-trees attained 
Up to now we had been accustomed to see scrub, or at the 
most small shrubs, and these specimens, with their thick 
trunks, heavy boughs, and masses of plumy needles, were 
quite a revelation. Their grey-green foliage was much the 
same tone as that of the olives, and seemed to soften down 
the blue glare of the sky, which a vivid green would have 
only intensified. A swampy river, probably abounding in 
game and wild pig, had to be crossed, and here we bade 
adieu, with much regret, to Count Magnis, who had 
arranged with the Prince to await his arrival at this spot, 
so as to have some wild-ass shooting in his company. 

We now proceeded on our way to Regan, the frontier 
village between the provinces of Kerman and Baluchistan, 
and could complain of the sultriness no longer, as a heavy 
shower of rain brought down the temperature by n°; 
this sudden and delightful change forcing us to unpack 
our warm things, which we imagined we had stowed away 
for good since reaching Bam. 

The country here was quite unlike any other part of 
Persia through which I had travelled, and gave the impres- 
sion of passing through a wild, deserted park, so abundant 
were the branching tamarisks, gnarled acacias, and graceful 
clumps of pampas ; while the fconar-tree grew to a great size. 
This latter is a species of wild cherry, from the pounded 
leaves of which a soap is prepared, used for washing the 
dead and also for toilet purposes. Both here and in 
Baluchistan I constantly noticed a plant some three feet 
high with big, fleshy leaves and masses of velvety mauve 
flowers, remarkably like auriculas, its dull purple seed-vessel 
being of the size of an Ggg. I never could find out the 
properties of this commonest of plants, some saying it was a 
dye, others that it was the deadliest of poisons, (of course it 
could easily have been both), while one man confuted the 
latter statement by devouring flower and leaf in my presence. 



236 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Streams of water abounded, and all around us rose the loud, 
clear call of the hot-country partridge or francolin> while 
myriads of small birds twittered in the jungle with its back- 
ground of stately palms. We lunched by a very muddy, 
swiftly running stream, and to my excessive surprise it had 
departed on its way and left its bed dry before our repast 
was completed — such a phenomenon being, however, far from 
uncommon in Persia whenever heavy rain has fallen. 

Our rooms in the caravanserai had a cheerful outlook over 
a small grove of oranges, and although we were still in the 
month of January bees, wasps, and a curious sandhopper 
were actively employed about their various avocations. 

At this point we had nearly caught up the Persian 
Commissioner and his suite, who had had a week's start of 
us, and who would most certainly have been in no hurry 
to reach the frontier unless we had been behind them. They 
had naively told the headman of Regan that they hastened 
on their way because they did not wish the Consul to get up 
with them and see the meagre equipment of tents and horses 
with which they were travelling from Kerman. Once arrived 
at Faraj or Pahra, where they were to join the Governor of 
Baluchistan and proceed on to Kuhak, the frontier town, in 
his company, they would be provided with an outfit ample 
enough to brave the inspection of any eye. The Commissioner 
always left messages behind him to the effect that we were 
killing his transport by forcing him to press on at such an 
unseemly pace ; and Suleiman Mirza, our Kerman friend, who 
had been sent by the Farman Farma to form part of the 
Commissioner's suite, amused us by leaving a message for 
my brother at every stage to the effect that he hoped he was 
bringing along with him a certain gift which he had promised 
him at Kerman and had ordered from India. To give a 
glimpse of a disagreeable trait of Persian character, I must 
mention that when he finally got the much-desired present 
he never took the trouble to acknowledge it. Gratitude with 
a Persian is strictly a sense of benefits to come, and over and 
over again I have been disgusted with the servants, who 
never spared floods of persuasive rhetoric to gain some 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 237 

favour, for which, when granted, they would hardly deign to 
mumble the customary " Iltefath-i-shuma-ziert" — a phrase 
which, by the way, is characteristic of the nation, as it 
means " May your kindness be increased ! " 

From now onwards we had the vision of the magnificent 
cone of the extinct volcano Kuh-i-Basman, the Demavend of 
Baluchistan, standing up superbly from a range about a 
hundred miles from us. My brother had made the ascent of 
this mountain during his previous journey in Baluchistan, 
and had had hard work in struggling through the masses of 
deep snow near its summit. It is curious how much the 
traveller gets attached to a grand peak which dominates the 
landscape through which he passes. Demavend became 
almost a part of my life when I was at Tehran, the fine mass 
of Jupa taking its place during my stay at Kerman ; while 
the snowy pyramid of Kuh-i-Hazar was visible nearly as far 
as Bam ; now Basman was to cheer us in the wilds of 
Baluchistan, to be succeeded in its turn by the remarkable 
Kuh-i-Taftan. We were obliged to spend a couple of days 
at Regan to get in supplies of forage for our mules and 
horses, not to mention food for the camels, which were given 
cakes of barley-dough at night, in addition to what they 
picked up for themselves ; these preparations were made with 
a view to the desert marches that now lay before us, as we 
were about to cross part of the great Sahara, which cuts 
Persia in half. We provided lambs and a crate of fowls for 
ourselves, and the servants were warned that they must 
carry supplies of food to last them for a fortnight. 

It seemed strange that Regan, with its swampy river, its 
luxuriant brushwood and profusion of game, should be on 
the verge of a terrible desolation. But so it is, and in Persia 
one realises more clearly than elsewhere the magic power of 
water. It was the presence of the river that gave Regan its 
fine crops of barley, its ample jungles of tangled yellow 
grass where lurked the snipe and wild duck, and its 
picturesque tamarisk scrub, among which fed the beautiful 
doraj, king among the partridges ; while only bare sand lay 
outside the narrow strip of cultivation. 



238 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

And it was the presence of a sun more powerful than we 
had hitherto encountered that made the inhabitants of this 
country darker and slighter than the usual Persian type, the 
unveiled women looking withered and dried up, as they 
peeped out of rudimentary huts made in some cases of 
bundles of rushes propped against the trunk of a tree, with 
an aperture on one side to serve as a door. 

It was here that we saw our first Baluch — a swarthy young 
man with greasy, flowing ringlets, clad in a long white cotton 
shirt and loose white trousers, and wearing a small black cap 
on his head. The servants were greatly interested in seeing 
an inhabitant of the country, which they regarded with an 
almost superstitious dread ; and as they considered the new- 
comer to be of abnormal ugliness, they at once began to 
chaff the unpopular ferash Akbar about him, asking him 
whether he recognised his brother ! Poor Akbar, being the 
son of the late executioner of Kerman, was considered to 
have inherited such a perverted nature that all that went 
amiss was invariably laid to his charge without any one 
caring to search for proof as to whether he were in fault or 
not! 

Our horses, owing to the extra barley and the regular 
work, got livelier daily — a great contrast to what they would 
have been if they had had Persian masters. The Prince 
himself complained to me that he and his following had lost 
over fifty horses during one of his journeys, and I could well 
believe him, as a Persian will set forth on his travels on a 
horse that probably has not been out of the stable for several 
days, and is naturally "soft" and unfit for work. My 
brother's method of walking until the sun was well up, and 
of giving our steeds a rest and feed at midday, caused them 
to arrive in first-class condition at the frontier, and so 
quarrelsome as to be somewhat unpleasant mounts. In fact 
I had to give up riding "Charters" when there was any 
question of an istakbal, as I could not keep him under 
control among a troop of strange horses without great 
vigilance. So I used to resign him to a groom with instruc- 
tions to lead him away from the throng of horsemen 



GOODBYE TO KERMAN 239 

accompanying us. On the first occasion, however, the 
servant "knew better," as is the way of all Persians, and 
" Charters " scattered our escort ignominiously. I can still 
hear the hollow thud of his hoofs as he kicked the chest of 
the horse behind him, and I can still see him turning this 
way and that, lashing out furiously with his hoofs on all sides, 
and thoroughly enjoying himself. 

As forges and blacksmiths are unknown in Baluchistan, 
we had to carry many dozens of native horseshoes with us, 
which our grooms applied as needed, " Cotmore " having had 
particularly large sets made for him. A Persian horseshoe 
covers the whole of the hoof save a small space in the centre, 
and is well adapted to a stony country, where a horse would 
soon go lame if fitted with English shoes. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 

WE had talked so much about the Great Persian Desert, 
which stretches up to Khorassan and forms an almost 
insuperable barrier between the different parts of the country, 
that I was prepared to pass the next week toiling through 
wastes of rolling sands and perhaps suffering the tortures 
of thirst so eloquently described by Professor Vambery. 

The Dasht-i-Lut, a term interpreted by some to mean 
" naked land," by others the " Land of Lot," is believed to 
have been a great inland sea, Yezd having been an island on 
its outskirts. This theory is carried out by the volcanoes of 
Basman and Kuh-i-Taftan rising up from its supposed shores, 
as volcanoes are almost invariably found by the sea. 

One of the few small villages in the vast area of this desert 
is called Yunsi, and tradition says it was here that the Yunsi, 
or Jonah, of Bible history was cast up by the whale, lending 
some plausibility to the derivation of the name from Lot. 

Marco Polo traversed this uninviting region from the north 
to the south, and my brother is probably the first European 
who has followed the route taken by the great Venetian. 

On this occasion we were merely crossing the fringe of the 

Sahara, but nevertheless my mind had been so stored with 

reminiscences of Eastern travel that I was considerably 

surprised to find this portion of the desert at all events 

not unlike many other parts of Persia, and, owing to the 

recent heavy rainfall, there was a fair amount of water to 

be had. 

Despite all this, however, our elaborate preparations were 

240 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 241 

by no means in vain. There was, it is true, water at most of 
our halting-places, but of such indifferent quality, being bitter, 
brackish or foul, as to be quite undrinkable, and when I add 
that we saw no inhabitants, and no flocks or herds in this 
desolate region, it was just as well that we had laid in supplies 
of food and forage beforehand. Four horsemen were attached 
to our party at Regan to act as guides, a necessary precaution, 
as the tracks were by no means so clearly defined here as is 
the rule in Persia, the traffic evidently being small. 

We started off on our first march about six o'clock on 
a windy morning, the golden full moon sinking slowly in 
the purple sky, across which the " dappled dawn " was 
stealing. Masses of clouds low down on the east lay like 
couches of rosy foam from which the sun sprang into the 
turquoise heavens, a great eye of light, rousing the world 
to a fresh day of existence, and reminding us of Omar 
Khayyam's lines — 

" Awake, for morning in the bowl of night 
Has flung the stone that put the stars to flight." 

Our tents had been pitched among sandhills bound 
together with the coarsest of grass ; but we soon entered 
upon a dreary region, the ground strewn with grey, black, 
and reddish stones of volcanic origin, dibris from the gloomy 
hills, where the only signs of life were lizards with flat heads, 
stout bodies, and tails cocked high, coloured so precisely like 
the boulders among which they lived as to be indistinguish- 
able from them unless in motion. 

I picked up one of these " poison-spitters," much to 
Nasrullah Khan's horror, and found it to be of the purest 
white underneath, copying as it were the salt efflorescence 
to be found in patches on the lava-strewn plains. 

The wind, which increased in violence as we rode on, 
raised up a sand-storm after noon, through which we had 
to make our way in spite of cut faces, smarting eyes, and 
protesting horses. Fortunately there was some tamarisk 
scrub where we halted for the night, and as it was impossible 

17 



242 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

to pitch tents in such a wind, we crouched down with our 
books and writing materials among the bushes, waiting for 
the gale to abate as evening came on. 

I amused myself by watching the camels come in. Three 
or four linked to one another would be led up to the camp, 
and by dint of pulling the chain, shouting, and slapping their 
woolly necks, the tiresome animals would be persuaded to 
kneel down to be unloaded amid a terrible amount of 
groaning and grumbling, just as if they were enduring 
great bodily anguish. The loads were carried in big cord 
bags slung on each side of the saddle, and had plenty of rope 
to keep them in position — a great contrast to the miserable 
equipment of the Baluchi camel, when later on we had to 
depend on him, and send the Prince's fine animals back 
to Kerman. The work of unloading was by no means 
an easy one, as the creatures, eager to go off and feed, did 
their best to get up before the boxes were unfastened, 
and the men had often a hard task to keep some unruly 
camel on its knees during the necessary few moments. 
Those that were must were the most troublesome, 
uttering awe-inspiring gurglings, a red bladder coming out 
of their foaming mouths. I always dreaded camels in this 
state, as they were half mad, and would attack any one 
without respect of persons, and to be bitten or kicked by 
one of these infuriated creatures, and possibly to have 
one's life pressed out by the formidable chest pad on which 
the animal lies, would not be an agreeable experience. The 
drivers say that a must camel eats scarcely anything, and 
yet is so strong that it will carry double loads without mur- 
muring; at this time it will probably wreak vengeance on 
a cruel master, for it is accredited with an exceedingly 
tenacious memory, and is supposed to store up unmerited 
beatings against a day of reckoning. 

The only way to deal with a camel desirous of attacking 
you is to face it boldly and threaten it with a stick, the 
merest switch having a good effect, especially if you can 
manage to hit it on its neck, the vulnerable part 

We used to send on all the stores, luggage, and extra 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 243 

tents every night about ten o'clock, six animals staying 
behind to carry the remaining tents and camp equipage 
on the following morning. This pishkhana^ as the advance- 
guard was called, was a good arrangement when travelling 
with such slow-moving creatures as camels, for it enabled us 
to have the tents in position and tea ready when we reached 
camp the next day. It had, however, its drawbacks, for our 
usual bedtime was at the early hour of eight o'clock, and 
it was impossible to get to sleep until the cessation of roars 
and groans announced that the loads were at last adjusted, 
and that our caravan was on its way. Another disadvantage 
of this system, so excellent for the most part, was that the 
camels were brought up close to our tents to be loaded 
up, and the horrible fetid odour, seemingly inseparable 
from these creatures, would penetrate to us, reminding us 
of an ill-kept menagerie. 

Our second desert march was to Zahu, still through 
a dreary volcanic region, where not even a bird was to be 
seen, while on either side rose up black, forbidding-looking 
hills, flushed with a dull red. 

A most uninviting region, but yet the name Zahu means 
" springing up," in reference to three or four pools to be found 
at the camping ground. These were only discoverable by the 
initiated, and had to be scooped out before water slowly 
trickled into them, which, when emptied, repeated the slow 
process over again. I fear that sometimes the precious life- 
giving fluid concealed its whereabouts too well, for among 
the rocky ground behind our camp the camel-drivers came 
upon a human corpse, probably that of some poor wretch who 
had braved the terrors of the desert alone, starting forth with 
a packet of damp Persian bread in his waistcloth, from which 
his small wooden water-bottle would be suspended. He had 
perhaps been obliged to travel before the rain had filled up 
the pools, or he may not have succeeded in finding them, 
and so died miserably in their immediate vicinity. 

We ourselves were in no danger of a death from thirst, 
as the rain clouds were gathering in the sky, and Ali Agha, 
the Fat Boy, had thoughtfully pitched our tents in the bed of 



244 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

a dry torrent, the very place to avoid in Persia, for if it rains 
in the hills a roaring flood may be at any time on its road to 
sweep away tents, men, and animals. Alexander the Great's 
camp, with his baggage and the women, was overwhelmed in 
this way during his celebrated march through Baluchistan ; 
and my brother, not wishing to experience a similar 
catastrophe, got our tents changed to the highest ground 
available before a perfect deluge descended from the 
heavens. 

Rain was still falling when we marched off early the next 
morning, leading our horses to keep ourselves warm, as, with 
a thermometer at 3 5° and an icy wind and sleet blowing 
into our faces, we should have been chilled to the bone in 
our saddles. After walking for some time, however, we were 
obliged to mount, as we came upon a large expanse of fairly 
deep flood-water, hurrying on its way to the site of our 
late camp. During the day we had to cross the water- 
shed separating the north from the south drainage, all the 
streams and rivers we encountered henceforth draining south- 
ward instead of northward as before. There were three 
difficult stone-strewn passes to be traversed, and we were 
obliged to walk for the most part, leading our horses in and 
out among the boulders. To me there was something horrible 
in this sinister-looking mountain range, so dark and lifeless, 
full of strange echoes, every now and again weird sounds 
striking the ear, not to be accounted for in any natural way. 
It appeared to be an utterly forsaken region, and I can well 
understand men going mad if they were forced to wander day 
by day in solitudes such as these, where there is never a sign 
of animal or bird to break through the awful desolation, the 
very vultures and crows seeming to avoid the accursed ground. 
Though this march was only twenty-seven miles in length, 
yet, on account of the steepness of the mountain passes, it 
was one of the hardest we had ever done. We ourselves 
were nine hours on the road to our camping-place, which 
was near some pools of water in the usually dried-up river- 
bed. Everything was wet and damp, and as our pishkhana 
had not started at its proper time the night before — the 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 245 

drivers protesting that they could not find their way in 
the darkness — we had to wait until ten o'clock that night 
for our bedding and camp equipage. Dead-tired and soaked 
through as I was, I had the grace to spare a little pity for the 
poor animals that had been marching for sixteen hours at 
a stretch and were by no means such adepts at climbing 
as their Baluchi relatives, with which I became acquainted 
later on. 

Two days after this hard march we passed through a 
charming region to which it seemed absurd to give the name 
of desert. We started from Abi Kishkin, the meeting of three 
long valleys, bounded by magnificent limestone peaks, above 
which Basman's snowy cone towered in the sunshine, and our 
guide led us along the sandy bed of a river amid a jungle of 
grasses and tamarisks, high concrete cliffs forming the banks 
of the stream. It was by no means a first-class road, as we 
had to pick our way in and out among big granite blocks, 
crossing and recrossing the water every few moments, and it 
was impossible to remain in our saddles, for we could not let 
our horses leap from one slippery boulder to another with 
riders on their backs. So perforce we dismounted, and I 
made up my mind that the boots I was wearing must be 
sacrificed, as the agility of a chamois would be needed to keep 
dryshod in such a place, the sacrifice being by no means a 
joke in a land where it is impossible to replace such articles. 
On and on we stumbled, jumping from stone to stone, crossing 
patches of sand saturated with moisture, in and out of masses 
of wet yellow grass, until, after some hours, we came to a dead 
halt, owing to the mouth of the valley being blocked up with 
boulders piled one above the other in mad confusion, as if 
Titans had had a game of play and had left their giant 
missiles all heaped up here. The guide frankly confessed 
that he had lost the track — there never had been one visible 
to my uninitiated eye — and he clambered up the concrete 
cliff and disappeared from view, hoping to fall in with some 
of our camels, which were, we fervently trusted, progressing 
under, more efficient guidance than was vouchsafed to us. 

After a long wait he reappeared, and announced that we 



246 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

must retrace our steps for at least two miles, and we should 
then be able to make our way across the steep cliffs into the 
parallel valley, where was the right road. It is always dis- 
agreeable to have to go back on a march, but on this occasion 
it was something more, as both we and our horses were tired 
and discouraged, and this made the by no means imaginary 
dangers of the route far more formidable. My Arab had got 
quite nervous by this time, hanging back at all the bad places, 
and requiring much coaxing to persuade him to surmount 
them ; and as for me, I could not help seeing very plainly 
that a false step might mean a broken limb — and then ? I 
do not think I am a specially nervous person, but throughout 
my stay in the uncivilised parts of the East I was never 
quite free from fear lest one of us might be ill or injured 
far away from any medical aid. On our journey down to 
Kerman we had had a litter carried by mules, but we 
had been obliged to leave it behind on this occasion, as it 
would have been impossible to get it over much of the 
country we should now have to traverse. Of course we 
could have improvised some sort of a stretcher, but I felt 
that our " First Aid to the Injured " certificates were a sadly 
insufficient equipment for setting broken bones, though I 
fondly imagined that I could hunt out the symptoms of fever 
or of any ordinary ailment in our medicine-book and cure 
them with the tabloids in the medicine-chest. 

This time, however, no medicine-books were needed, and 
we finally emerged on the vast Bampur Plain, my brother 
pointing out to me Kuh-i-Hamant, Kuh-i-Fanoch, and many 
another peak well known to him from his former journeys in 
Baluchistan, and showing me where the Bampur River lay, 
and Bampur itself, the so-called capital of Baluchistan, sup- 
planted, however, by Pahra, or Faraj, a few miles beyond it, 
where the Assad-i-Dowleh, Governor of the province, held his 
court. T 

The plain was overgrown with poisonous oleander scrub, 
fatal to unwary camels, and here and there small groves of 
stately palms made oases in the sandy wastes, honeycombed 
with rat-holes, the little inhabitants of which sat sunning 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 247 

themselves near the tamarisk scrub, and scuttling into their 
burrows in a great hurry as we rode past. After some 
hours we reached a country of low sand-dunes, among 
which grew three or four kinds of the ubiquitous gaz, or 
tamarisk. There were big-trunked, spreading trees with 
plumy bundles of needles ; others again springing straight 
up to a great height like a new kind of poplar ; a third 
species having bright green rudimentary leaves like broom, 
and a fourth, growing in bushes, was breaking out into 
rosy bloom. 

When we had left the kah, or chopped straw of Persia, 
behind us, our horses and mules were not confined merely to 
the barley carried on our camels, but soon took to the dur- 
rumshuky a long, coarse, jointed grass which grows throughout 
Baluchistan in great masses some three or four feet high. 

On the Bampur Plain we passed a dervish carrying a furled 
white flag with a red fringe at the top of its staff. He was a 
tall, good-looking fellow, exceedingly dirty, and was tramping 
the country to solicit alms in the name of Abbas, Hussein's 
brother, the standard-bearer of the little army of the Faithful, 
massacred by the Arabs under such moving circumstances. 
Other fakirs carry a water-skin instead of a flag, recalling to 
the minds of Mohammedans an episode of the Tazieh, or 
Passion Play, in which Abbas dashes for the well which is 
surrounded by hosts of enemies, and dies in the heroic 
attempt to get water for the miserable company of men, 
women, and children, who had been suffering all the agonies 
of thirst for three days under the scorching rays of the 
Arabian sun. 

Apropos of the Tazieh, Nasrullah Khan told me that 
Persians often send their children to take part in it, believing 
that a special blessing will descend upon them. Babies of 
two or three months old are sent to be held in the arms 
of the Hussein of the play during one of its most tragic 
incidents, which is as follows : — 

When the beleaguered relatives of the Prophet, half-dead 
from thirst, could resist no longer, Hussein, the grand- 
son of Mohammed, held out his infant to the Arabs, 



248 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

begging them to take pity on it, even though they had none 
on him and his relatives ; but, alas, the only answer to his 
appeal was an arrow piercing the child's throat. 

Nasrullah Khan, when a boy of six, watching the play at 
Shiraz, and sitting close to the stage, was much surprised to 
find himself suddenly picked up by the Abbas of the piece. 
The drama had reached the point when Abbas takes a fond 
farewell of his two children and hands them over to his sister. 
On this particular occasion no boy was forthcoming, and 
what more natural than that the actor should supply the 
want from among the audience, reproving his victim in whis- 
pers for laughing when crying was the order of the day ? 

This Persian Passion Play is to commemorate the death of 
the Imam Hussein, the second son of Ali, who refused to 
acknowledge the usurper Yezid as the lawful Klialif. The 
inhabitants of Kufa offered to espouse his cause, and on his 
way to that city he was overtaken by Yezid's troops on the 
fatal plain of Kerbelah, where he and nearly all his family 
were killed in the sixty-first year of the Hejreh. The play 
comprises all the events connected with the martyr's flight 
from Mecca to his tragic death, and is acted in every city 
throughout Persia, causing the most intense emotion among 
the spectators. 

Before we reached Bampur I made my first acquaintance 
with -the characteristic camelry of Baluchistan. About three 
miles from our camp we observed a procession coming 
towards us between the tamarisk-trees. Wild-looking soldiers 
armed with jezails, or native rifles, were mounted on the 
usual rat-like steeds, but my glance quickly flew beyond 
them to a long line of men mounted on camels and 
"salaaming" vigorously. Two men sat on each animal, 
one behind the other, and were equipped with round brass- 
bossed shields, huge curved scimitars, and the usual brass- 
bound, inefficient rifle of the country. They seemed a warlike 
crew, and were clad in black woollen tunics, and such wide 
white cotton trousers that they looked like skirts hanging 
over the sides of the camels, while long, greasy locks fell 
from beneath their turbans. A body of men carrying wands 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 249 

and wearing a pretence of a uniform preceded us, and cavalry 
and camelry fell in behind, escorting us in style to our camp 
on the game-haunted Bampur River, our tents being pitched 
near the palm-leaf matting huts which sheltered our would-be 
protectors. In lands where water is a rare commodity a real 
river has a charm quite indescribable, and we hastened down 
to this one, getting lovely peeps of it through the intervening 
tamarisks, and admiring the many islets of grass and reeds 
scattered on its surface, these giving it quite the aspect of 
" ornamental water " such as we see in great parks at home. 

I noticed a curious plant here, growing under the tamarisks. 
It had no leaves, but its pale yellow flowers, reminding me of 
those of the mullein, clustered in masses on the thick, fleshy 
stems, which were about a foot high, and which, when pulled 
up, appeared to have no roots. 

Bampur, the now deserted capital of Baluchistan, lay some 
miles away from the river, and the old fort, perched upon the 
summit of a great mound of earth, reminded me somewhat of 
Mont St. Michel, as it loomed in a dusty sky, rising pic- 
turesquely from the surrounding wastes of sand. However, 
the castellated mud towers, seen nearer, dissipated the fancied 
resemblance, and we pitched our tents under some of the 
few remaining date-palms for which this fever-stricken place 
was once famous, near squalid palm-leaf huts, the miserable 
inhabitants of which were in sad contrast to the cheery, 
healthy Normans of the Mont. Pottinger records the 
tradition that a huge army of Guebres filled the bags from 
which they fed their horses with earth, and the amount 
was so great that it formed the curious mound on which 
the fort of Bampur stands. 

Many of the people here were of distinctly negroid type, 
descended from the slaves settled in these parts, and 
probably slaves themselves at the present day, the dress 
of the women, who did not cover their faces, reminding me 
much of that of nuns as they glided about in white robes, 
long black woollen veils being draped over their heads. 
Pahra, or Faraj, the real capital, was fourteen miles from 
Bampur, and it was a relief to leave the countless flies 



256 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

which infested our camping ground at the latter place, and 
push on to meet the Persian Commissioner and his suite. 

Our servants were almost as excited as if we had been 
entering Tehran, smartening themselves up and polishing 
saddles and bridles for our horses to look their best ; for 
as we were to be met by an istakbal, sent by the Governor 
of Baluchistan, we must muster an imposing array to 
make an effective entry into the town, the position of a 
traveller in the East being high or low in proportion to the 
number of his followers. A cavalry escort in nondescript 
apparel, but armed with rifles, closed in behind us, and about 
a farsakh from the masses of date-groves hiding the town 
the istakbal appeared, headed by the Governor's nephew, a 
good-looking young man in a lavender cloth frock-coat 
adorned with brass buttons. White horses with silver collars 
and trappings were led before us, and, surrounded by a 
crew of men in the shabbiest of clothing, mounted on the 
veriest screws conceivable, we rode forward very slowly in 
the direction of a huge square castellated enclosure having 
mud towers at intervals, and much resembling a caravan- 
serai. Outside this fort the Governor's army was drawn up 
to welcome us, clad in grey cotton coats and trousers, while 
the strains of our National Anthem burst forth from the 
band, gorgeous in a parti-coloured blue and red uniform, 
profusely braided in yellow. Though " God Save the Queen " 
was played with queer variations, yet we could not but be 
touched with the compliment to our Sovereign, and passed 
on to our tents, pitched on a stony plain not far from the 
large Persian camp. 

There were abundant streams of water in the place, and I 
was charmed with my first view of Faraj, with its cool, shady 
groves of palms, rippling streams, and picturesque old for- 
tresses, planted in the midst of a howling waste. 

The Persian Governor and the Commissioner hastened to 
call on the Consul, and my brother asked them, with Suleiman 
Mirza and Haji Khan, to dine with us that evening. Hashim 
was somewhat depressed, because he greatly disliked using 
our enamel camp equipage on the occasion of a party, and 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 251 

he warned me moodily that the entertainment would be a 
failure, as he did not consider that we had enough plates and 
cutlery to go round. However, the evening went off very 
well. The Assad-i-Dowleh, rather an imposing-looking, 
black-bearded Persian with a sad lack of teeth, could not 
keep his eyes off me, being the first European lady he had 
ever seen. I complimented him on the beautiful playing of 
his band, whereupon he hastened to assure me that he would 
order it to discourse sweet music in front of my tent every 
day and all day if I desired, and I had some difficulty in 
declining such a tempting offer ! Sport was, as usual, the 
staple subject of conversation, and the Assad-i-Dowleh got 
quite excited over narrating to us a leopard story, which we 
found out afterwards to be his stock anecdote when in 
company. It appeared that one day, travelling among the 
hills, he had had his prayer-carpet spread at some distance 
from his camp, and had retired to absorb himself in devotion, 
when his prayers were interrupted by a -huge leopard that 
attacked the kneeling Governor. He did not attempt to 
rise, but picking up his sword cut off with one stroke 
the head of the animal, and returned to his tents bearing 
with him one of its paws as a trophy of his heroic deed, 
which all applauded with many a bah ! bah ! of admiration. 

Baluchistan was only conquered by the Persians about 
thirty to forty years before our visit, the father of the Farman 
Farma and a certain Ibrahim Khan subjugating the country 
after a desperate resistance on the part of its chieftains. The 
latter were persuaded to trust to Persian oaths sworn on the 
Koran, and coming to Kerman to enter into treaty with its 
Governor were thrown into chains for the rest of their days ; 
Persian policy in these cases reminding one of Tarquinius 
Superbus and the story of the poppy-heads. Minus its 
leaders, the country became a comparatively easy prey, but 
it has been in an unsettled state ever since its annexation. 

It needed a strong and a long arm to keep the land quiet, 
and, as the Assad-i-Dowleh had much difficulty in quelling 
numerous petty raids on his frontier, which for about a couple 
of hundred miles was an exceedingly ill-defined line, the 



252 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

object of the present Boundary Commission was to assign 
the date-groves, the subject of dispute, to their respective 
Governments. 

Faraj is, in all probability, the same town which was the 
capital of Baluchistan in Alexander's day. At the time of 
our visit it was merely a village of miserable huts, the better 
sort, like huge beehives with a thick palm-leaf thatch, topping 
their round mud walls ; while the great majority were merely 
shanties made from the palm-leaf matting. The Baluchis, 
as a race, were much darker and smaller in build than the 
Persians, the type of features Arab in the better class and 
frequently negroid in the lower. The men looked picturesque 
in baggy white trousers, over which they wore a long black 
or white shirt, while a white cotton shawl was sometimes 
wound as a turban round their skull-caps, or put over the 
head in the way that a Lancashire lass wears her shawl. 
The elder men sported a mass of greasy black hair that had 
seldom known the discipline of a comb, matted locks hanging 
over their shoulders, while their long beards and moustaches 
had all the centre parts plucked out so as to prevent the hair 
being rendered unclean by drinking wine. The young men 
were great dandies as regarded their coiffures, dragging their 
curls forward to hang over their ears, and often cultivating a 
specially long and well-greased one to droop over their chests, 
much as I have seen the locks of ladies arranged in old- 
fashioned portraits. All the Baluchis are Sunnis, and 
fervently hate the Persian Skiahs, adoring Omar, who is 
execrated by the Persians ; and one of our servants nearly 
caused a disturbance here by speaking in disrespectful 
language of that vigorous, all-conquering Khalif. 

The Baluchi women looked thin and starved, poor things, 
wearing white or black woollen garments, strongly suggestive 
of nightgowns, and only making a half-hearted pretence of 
covering their faces with the veil worn over head and shoulders. 

It was most pleasant to wander about the extensive date- 
groves, watered by three parallel streams winding among the 
crops of barley and Indian corn springing up under the trees. 
The whole place was perfumed by patches of beans in full 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 253 

flower, and we had the unwonted sight of lettuces and young 
onions, while tiny purple irises gemmed the grass. We had 
to cross and recross the streams continually, over somewhat 
insecure bridges formed of hollowed-out palm-trunks through 
which water poured, and on the edges of which we had to 
balance ourselves as best we could. 

It is wonderful with what a charm palms are able to invest 
any place, no matter how squalid and mean, and we kept 
within the dimly lit aisles of the graceful trees, for outside 
the ground was bare and sandy with salt efflorescence in 
places, tamarisks with curious grey-looking needles growing 
in abundance. We made an inspection of the various old 
forts of Pahra, the oldest being merely a large mound of 
rubbish, with a fragment of mud wall remaining. In this 
rainless climate it might have dated from the days when 
Alexander and his army passed through, and we wished we 
could excavate it for possible traces of a Greek occupation, 
and offered money for coins or old pottery ; but the villagers 
did not respond in any way. We were escorted all about the 
place by a long-haired Indian fakir (beggar), clad in white 
garments, holding what looked like a trident, one arm being 
decorated with a burnished steel bracelet. He was much 
pleased at seeing a Sahib in this out-of-the-way region, and 
attached himself to my brother at once, claiming acquaint- 
ance with him by boasting proudly that he was a British 
subject, and insisted in walking before us, to keep off all 
inquisitive Baluchis with the redoubtable trident, posing 
himself in the front when we began to take photos. He 
gave us to understand that game existed here in great 
quantities, and my brother carried his gun on the chance 
of a shot at wild duck or partridges. However, the only 
thing he bagged was a teal, and in that he was assisted by 
a hawk, which swooped down upon the quarry and trans- 
fixed it, but flew off as our servant rushed towards the 
spot. The teal also rose up, but only exchanged the frying-pan 
for the fire, as it fell a victim to the gun. That night the 
Governor of Baluchistan invited us to dine with him, and 
ordered a large crimson-lined tent, like a gigantic parasol, to 



254 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

be pitched between our respective camps. Nominally it was 
his party, but I had almost as much to do with it as if it had 
been my own. Our tables, chairs, plates, knives, forks, and 
so on, were requisitioned for the entertainment ; our cooks 
were borrowed to manufacture European dishes, and the 
Assad-i-Dowleh sent a special message begging us to pro- 
vide a jelly, as he had so much enjoyed the one at our 
dinner-party ! We supplied wine, sweets, and biscuits, so 
that, as far as I could judge, the Governor's contribution to 
his own feast was merely a couple of pillaus. In fact it would 
almost have been less trouble to have had the whole affair in 
our camp, although one great point in having it elsewhere 
was that we were at liberty to retire when we chose. It was 
a moonless evening when the fat interpreter appeared to 
escort us to the big tent, and a great bonfire was blazing up 
in front of it, illuminating the scarlet and blue-clad band 
which stood round in readiness to discourse (sweet?) har- 
monies, their big drum occupying a perilous position close 
to the flames. Branches of wood flaring in high iron stands 
served as candles for their scraps of manuscript music, 
throwing up in silhouette the figures of our host and the 
others who marched out to meet and welcome us. I was 
placed next the Assad-i-Dowleh, whom I found hard to 
understand, his total lack of teeth making his articulation 
far from distinct, so it was somewhat a relief when the band 
discoursed Persian and Turkish airs. Some were sadly out 
of time and tune, giving me sensations as of a slate-pencil 
dragged across a slate, but I fancied that the defective light 
must have had something to do with the plentiful discords — 
a charitable idea of which I was disabused later on. Our 
servants had been requisitioned to do the waiting, as the 
Assad-i-Dowleh considered that his own were too uncivilised 
to understand European requirements, and Hashim was quite 
in his element on this occasion, treating our host with a 
benevolent patronage, the two having colloquies about every 
dish with which the Governor was unfamiliar. He wanted 
to try everything, but explained to Hashim that he was 
toothless, asking his opinion as to whether he could eat this 




THE PERSIAN FRONTIER COMMISSION. 



THROUGH THE DESERT TO BAMPUR AND PAHRA 255 

or that, and much shocked our factotum by insisting on 
drinking Worcester sauce in a wineglass. Hashim remon- 
strated with him, but the old gentleman was not to be dis- 
suaded from his purpose. Turning to the table he said 
frankly that he had so much enjoyed it when poured over 
his meat at our party, that he wanted to have it in larger 
quantities, reminding me of the story of the farmer at a 
tenant's dinner who was so pleased with his thimbleful of 
liqueur that he asked the footman to supply him with some 
of the same drink in " a mug " ! 

When the champagne was opened (we always kept this 
for Persian dinners, as my brother knew from his former 
experiences how highly it and the toasts we were in the 
habit of connecting with it, were appreciated), the Assad-i- 
Dowleh quite won my heart by sending a message to his 
band, which struck up our National Anthem, upon which 
our host rose and proposed the health of our Queen, who, 
by the way, is regarded with wonderful reverence and 
admiration throughout Persia. My brother responded by 
toasting the Shah, and we finally parted with much effusion, 
it being arranged that we should keep a day ahead of the 
Persians with their great following, as, if the army went first, 
all supplies would be eaten up before we arrived. And so 
on February 9th we set off again on the march, the weather 
being so hot at this low altitude that we started by sunrise 
daily in order to reach our camps not later than nine 
o'clock. 

We had frequent opportunities of observing the mirage 
on these great plains, and I have seen phantom lakes and 
shady trees in striking contrast to the barrenness and deso- 
lation of the actual country through which we were passing. 

The " refraction " near the mountain ranges in the early 
morning was also a curious phenomenon, the curling mists 
magnifying small boulders into colossal and weird shapes, 
and completely transmogrifying the aspect of the country. 



CHAPTER XIX 

TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 

BALUCHISTAN, viewed as a whole, is one of the 
most sterile countries imaginable, the greater part of 
it covered with stones and boulders, the ctibris from the 
countless ranges of hills which cut up the land. In fact it 
is an uninhabited desert except where the traveller comes 
upon the oases of date-palms. The moment the small stream 
by which he has camped is left behind him he is on a Sahara, 
which may be sandy or stony, but which is always destitute 
of vegetation, until the presence of water again brings him 
to dates and cultivation. Everything here seems to be in 
extremes. The traveller is either enjoying the grateful shade 
of the palms, the murmur of running water, and the fresh 
green of the young barley, or he is in the midst of a barren 
region, where he cannot understand how his camels support 
life on the scanty, dried-up scrub, and where the water, if he 
is lucky enough to get any, is bitter, brackish, and foul. 

Even in winter the climate is too hot to be pleasant, but 
the summer heats are so great that no Persian will venture 
into the low-lying country during that period. After leaving 
Kerman, where we were at an altitude of 5,600 ft., it was a 
great descent to the 2,000 ft. of Baluchistan, and as it was 
the Farman Farma strongly objected to my accompanying 
my brother on this journey. He affirmed that even if I 
survived the sun, I should reappear in civilised life with my 
skin burnt to the colour of that of a negress ; this remon- 
strance of his being one of our jokes when we met him again 

at Tehran. 

256 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 257 

The first place at which we halted after leaving Faraj was 
Aptar. There was nothing specially remarkable about its 
date-groves, old fort, and mud beehive-like houses, but I 
remember the spot well because of the extraordinary repu- 
tation for sanctity attaching to the late Governor of the 
village. 

This worthy is interred at Manish, a considerable distance 
from the scene of his labours, and a huge cairn of stones 
marks his last resting-place. The tomb is hung with bits of 
rag, ibex horns, and so on, the only reason given for the 
unusual veneration accorded to the deceased being that he 
never robbed the poor ! This may seem a somewhat meagre 
claim to saintship in the eyes of a European, but, looked at 
from an Oriental point of view, the man who has it in his 
power to oppress, and to amass money as a result of his 
oppressions, and who refrains from enriching himself by such 
means, is worthy of all honour. 

Shrines are scattered throughout the length and breadth of 
Baluchistan, and not only is some holy dervish interred close 
to every village of any note, but the traveller constantly comes 
upon a ring of stones hung with fluttering scraps of clothing 
in the midst of the wildest deserts. The pious passer-by tears 
a bit off his cotton shirt to add to the collection, believing 
that by so doing the dead saint will bear him in mind and 
will intercede for him to Allah. 

The ibex horns are a sign of honour, and often very fine 
ones adorn some village shrine, which is occasionally hung 
with the woollen tassels taken from the leading camel of a 
caravan, or with camel-bells, these latter, I suppose, to call 
the attention of the saint. 

From Aptar we made our way along the grey, shingly bed 
of a river, and observed masses of the dwarf-palm, or peesk, 
spreading out its spiky, fan-like leaves. It is a great stand-by 
to the Baluchis, as it supplies material for the matting of 
which they make their houses in this part of the country, 
also for the brittle ropes which they use to bind the loads on 
to their camels, and the uselessness of which the traveller 
soon finds out to his cost. The rudimentary Baluchi shoes 

18 



258 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

are made from this palm, and are merely soles of thickly- 
plaited fibre held on to the foot by means of a bit of rope. 
As they are invariably too long for the foot they have a 
queer look, and their owners shuffle about in them to all 
appearance most uncomfortably, so much so that I was never 
surprised to see them often carried in the hand while their 
possessor plodded along barefoot. From Regan onwards we 
met with these shoes, scattered on either side the track in all 
stages of decay, some quite new-looking ones being among 
the number. Besides being used for clothing, the roots of the 
dwarf-palm are eaten as food, and its woody stems supply 
firewood. Our caravan route through a peesh district was 
always marked by columns of white smoke, the shrub bursting 
into a tremendous blaze when set alight, its dry fans catching 
fire at once. The blackened stems left were rooted up for 
burning, and our camel-men made huge bonfires of them, 
round which they lay every night. 

As the valley along which we were marching opened out, 
the great mass of Kuh-i-Hamant rose before us in all its 
majesty. It has three sharply serrated peaks, and when my 
brother made the ascent in his journey through Baluchistan 
in 1893 he found on reaching the summit that it was a 
perfect knife-edge, on which he was obliged to sit astride 
and so push himself along. The Baluchis were most 
unwilling for him to ascend this mountain, believing it to be 
inhabited by evil spirits. This, however, they imagine to be 
the case with every lofty and inaccessible peak, and the grand 
volcano of Kuh-i-Taftan, of which I had a glimpse later on, 
and which my brother also ascended, is usually called Kuh-i- 
Cheheltun (Mountain of the Forty Spirits). 

As I have mentioned in the previous chapter, the Persian 
Commissioner and his suite were a day's march behind 
us, which plan was fraught with inconvenience owing to the 
habit his pishkhana had of arriving about 3.30 a.m. or 
4 a.m., passing our camp with a trampling of men and camels, 
jingling of many bells, and a shouting of drivers and servants 
to halt. I remember on one or two of these occasions Bargi, 
being roused by the noise, called me a couple of hours before 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 259 

it was necessary, and, as there was never any time to spare in 
the morning, I sprang up without looking at my watch and 
nearly completed my toilette before she reappeared to say 
that she had made a mistake. 

Magas, one of our next halting-places, is worthy of mention 
as being the highest point at which dates are grown. The 
Baluchis call it Sarkad, or Cold Country, and the Garm-i-sir, 
or Hot Country, Baluchis could not well exist here. It is 
quite a fine place for Baluchistan, the clusters of flat-roofed 
mud houses being dominated by a great square mud fort ; 
and the entire population swarmed forth to greet the Consul 
Sahib, whom they remembered from his visit to them in 1893. 
The Governor and his brother headed the procession, tall 
men with flowing black beards, wearing long goat's-hair coats 
profusely embroidered in red cotton over their full white 
trousers, while their ample white turbans were in strong 
contrast to the small embroidered smoking-caps — an Indian 
importation — affected by some of their retainers, and which 
must be a most inadequate protection against the fierce sun 
of this region. The chieftains of the different villages through 
which we passed were always better-looking men than any 
of their subjects, their extra cleanliness in dress probably 
having something to do with their distinguished appearance. 
As we halted a day at Magas for supplies, we were overtaken 
by the Persian party, whom we entertained to lunch, and it 
may interest my readers to hear how I managed about 
puddings and so on when on the march. 

As milk is scarcely ever to be got in Baluchistan, and eggs 
are practically unobtainable (the Baluchis considering them 
unclean, and as such unfit for eating), I took with me a large 
store of Swiss condensed milk and some tins of egg powder, 
a combination of the two making capital custard puddings. 
Dried plums, peaches, apricots, and figs had been laid in at 
Kerman, and were invaluable in a country almost destitute 
of fruit and vegetables at the best of times, and of course 
completely so during the month of February in which we 
were travelling. 

Tins of " Chollet's compressed vegetables " were a great 



260 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

stand-by for our soup, and when I mention that we carried 
" jelly packets " with us, my readers will see that we travelled 
in real luxury ! 

Naturally we were not without dates in a country where 
a man's social position is settled by the number of date-palms 
he possesses. We got a skinful of this fruit at Bam, but soon 
discarded it for the much superior keg given us by the 
Assad-i-Dowleh. This contained a sort of jam, the juice of 
other dates being poured upon the packed ones — the whole 
mass very luscious and half-crystallised. Dates and a sort of 
chupatti are the staple food of the Baluchis, and they cannot 
imagine the possibility of dwelling in a country where their 
much-prized fruit is not grown. The tradition is that when 
the Arabs overran Baluchistan each man carried his store 
of dates with him, and from the stones they flung away have 
arisen the great palm-groves of this country. 

Suran was perhaps the most beautiful of our camps in 
Baluchistan. To reach it we struck across the alluvial plain 
of Magas, and got into a tangle of low hills and long, narrow 
desolate valleys. When free of these we emerged on to a 
plain which gleamed white, being encrusted with a glittering 
efflorescence of salt. Exquisite groves of palms shot up from 
the dazzling ground, and beyond them the snowy cone of 
Kuh-i-Taftan, that great volcano, rose magnificently above 
the umber and mauve mountain ranges bounding the horizon. 
Here the tamarisks grew tall and slim as Lombardy poplars, 
and the young date-palms were planted in pits for purposes 
of irrigation, and most carefully swathed up in pieces of 
palm-leaf matting, to protect their tender fronds from the 
animals. 

My brother was far less impressed with the loveliness of 
the place than with the fear lest our horses might get 
cracked heels from the salt ; but by washing their feet in 
carbolic, and drying them with the fibre growing at the root 
of the stalk of each palm-leaf, this danger was fortunately 
averted. 

As we were halting for a couple of days at Suran we set 
out early the next morning in search of game, and found 




A BALUCHI BAND. 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 261 

that beyond the ramshackle mud villages, surrounded by the 
winter crops of wheat and barley now a foot high, and 
beyond the shady groves of palms, lay a region of swamp 
and river with jungles of rushes and tangled yellow grass. 
Here we began to splash in and out of pools and shallow 
streams, now nearly knee-deep in mud and water, and 
now crunching the crisp, bitter salt, resembling hoarfrost as 
it encrusted the stalks and leaves of the low scrub. Tortoise- 
shell butterflies were flitting about in great abundance, 
beautiful humped cattle were slowly chewing the cud, and 
swallows skimmed over the water in profusion, looking to 
my unpractised eye so much like the snipe we were in quest 
of that I should most certainly have loosed off a gun at 
them if I had been permitted to try my hand at this sport. 
After an unsuccessful chase after some wild geese we 
returned to camp with a small bag of snipe, and during 
lunch the Baluchi band of the village came to enchant our 
ears. It was a case of multum in parvo, being composed 
of but two men, who managed, however, to produce noise 
enough to half deafen us. One man beat a drum with much 
vigour, and the other performed on a long tube with a bag 
at its end, bringing piercing yells, screeches, and shrieks out 
of his insignificant-looking instrument. As the Persian 
Commissioner and his suite arrived about this time, the 
parti-coloured band of the Assad-i-Dowleh began to discourse 
sweet music, quite ignoring the rival band only a hundred 
yards off ; and when this latter redoubled its exertions 
the strain on sensitive ears may be imagined rather than 
described. 

Sultan Sukru appeared that afternoon, delighted to have 
caught us up again. He was full of pride at having mapped 
in a little-known part of the country, and as his way had 
led him past Isfundika he had taken gifts for the Governor 
and his three wives. These latter ladies I had had the 
pleasure of meeting at Rahbur the previous summer, 
during our tour in the hills from Kerman, when they had 
presented me with saddle-bags and engraved seals. I ques- 
tioned Sultan as to whether they had approved of what I 



262 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

had sent them in return, and he amused me by describing 
how the head eunuch had come to him secretly, saying that 
the Governor had told his wives that I had sent them no 
gifts, but that the ladies did not place implicit faith in this 
assertion of their lord and master. Sultan Sukru accordingly 
gave the man particulars of the cases of perfumes, cut-glass 
bottles for rose-water, needle-books, and so on, that he had 
brought for them ; and as the ladies sent me some old pottery 
and a saddle-bag, I trust that they extracted my presents 
from their wily husband. This Governor dwelt near an 
ancient buried city mentioned by Marco Polo, from which 
he dug up the old china and the curious seals I have spoken 
of before, and he had given my brother a great account of a 
certain Kalah-i-Suleiman (Solomon's Fort), which he had 
affirmed to be built of stone and covered with fine rock- 
sculptures and inscriptions. Like so much in Persia, how- 
ever, this was very unlike its imaginary description, and 
turned out, when inspected by Sultan Sukru, to be a big 
mud building in three tiers, with no stone-work of any kind 
about it. 

Before leaving Suran some Baluchis arrived at our camp 
with the news that fifteen ladies had landed at Gwadur with 
the officers forming the Frontier Commission, and the men 
asserted that they themselves had seen these Khanums. 
Allowing a large margin for Oriental exaggeration, my 
brother and I thought that there must be some foundation 
for such a report ; and as nearly a year had elapsed since I 
had seen a European lady, I felt greatly delighted at the 
prospect of meeting some of my own sex again, and was 
proportionately disappointed when I met the Commission a 
few days later on, and found that the female element was 
conspicuous by its absence. At the next stage of our 
journey a fine-looking Baluch came to visit my brother. 
His snowy turban and full trousers were set off by a magni- 
ficent tunic of brilliantly striped silk — a veritable Joseph's 
coat — and attended by two or three servants he rode up on 
a horse, which is a sign of unusual wealth in this country. 

As soon as my brother set eyes on him he recognised him 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 263 

as the Governor of a village, who two years ago had begged 
a belt or a blanket, or even a pair of old boots from him, 
running after him in the fervour of his entreaties. This time 
the Baluch demanded a revolver, and on being asked what 
he had done to merit such a gift, he said, " I have certainly 
performed no service, but generosity is noble, O Sahib, and 
we Baluchis all expect presents from Europeans ! " 

As many of the marches we were making lay through a 
practically desert region I became perforce acquainted with 
all kinds of water, and after a time did not dislike the 
brackish variety, which was about the best of the many 
brands we sampled. Having always been practically a 
teetotaler, I am rather a connoisseur in ab, as the Persians 
term water, and all the bad kinds we encountered made me 
thoroughly appreciate the occasional clear streams rippling 
beneath stately palm-groves. 

Our camels had often to go without a drink, but they kept 
very well on the whole, as they were fed every evening, and 
were not obliged to pick up their own livelihood, as the 
Baluchi camels have to do. At sunset they were driven 
into camp with much shouting and yelling, two men and 
a boy being in charge of every seven camels. The animals 
then knelt down in circles, each set keeping to its own mess, 
and the men driving off any outsiders who attempted to 
force themselves in. A big bundle of ard-i-jo, i.e., a dough 
made of coarse barley-flour, was placed in the middle of 
each party, and the creatures would sniff at it, trying to 
extract bits from it before the time to serve it out arrived. 
When all were in their places, the men and boys made 
up balls of dough, thrusting them into yawning mouths, 
which opened out to a surprising extent, and always reminded 
me of mediaeval pictures of dragons. All the camels behaved 
in the most orderly way during this process, swallowing their 
portions in turn, the favoured ones taking the hands of their 
drivers into their capacious jaws, and sucking them clean 
from the dough adhering to them. 

On one occasion a huge animal was must, foaming at its 
-mouth, and the men tried to make it fight with another 



264 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

camel, and brought the two great creatures close together. 
The must one was eager for the fray, and advanced with a 
gurgling roar, whereupon the other retreated in hot haste, 
considerably to my relief. 

This custom of feeding the camels was an excellent one, 
as it kept them from going afield in search of food during 
the night. Baluchi camels do this very frequently, and thus 
often delay the start of a caravan for some hours, the drivers, 
perched upon mahri, or riding-animals, having to scour the 
country in all directions for their missing charges. 

The Baluchi camel-driver is dirty, good-humoured, and 
lazy, an exceeding trial to the patience of the modern 
traveller, who has to make superhuman efforts to get his 
caravan off in good time in the morning, and who will find 
his drivers desert him in a body if he is not careful to temper 
his energy with much tact. Luckily for us, we had no trouble 
in this way, as the camels lent us by the Farman Farma 
were all under the authority of a certain Ibrahim Khan, who 
was responsible to the Prince for them and their drivers. 

To talk of roads in Baluchistan is a complete misnomer. 
The traveller finds his way from place to place along narrow 
tracks beaten down by the feet of camels. If separated from 
his caravan, as we invariably were, he often loses all traces 
of the path, if it passes over a boulder-strewn ground or over 
hard, gravelly soil, and has to hunt in all directions before he 
recovers it again. Moreover, there are all sorts of secondary 
tracks running seemingly in the right direction, but which, 
if followed, will assuredly lead the wayfarer astray. 

At several of our halting-places all the inhabitants had 
fled into the hills at the approach of the Assad-i-Dowleh's 
army, taking their sheep and movable property with them, 
but leaving perforce their crops of barley and lucerne, 
their mud houses, and tiny mosques at the mercy of the 
soldiery. 

The places of worship in these villages are mean in the 
extreme, small, square mud edifices, the palm-beam roofs so 
low that the hand can reach them. Creeping inside through 
the hole serving as a door, there is not much to be seen save I 




KUHAK, WHERE THE FRONTIER COMMISSION MET. 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 265 

palm-leaf matting on the ground, an old copy of the Koran in 
a hole in the wall, and near it a mihrab, or recess, indicating 
the direction of the Kiblah at Mecca, to which all the faithful 
turn when they pray. And yet, poor as are the few mosques 
in the country, the despised Sunni Baluchis are most strict 
in the performance of what religious duties they have been 
taught, keeping, for example, the Fast of Ramazan with far 
greater strictness than the civilised Persians who laugh at 
them. 

The big cairns of stones by the wayside, adorned with 
sticks hung with fluttering rags, are all a proof of their desire 
to venerate and to pray ; although they themselves are not 
very clear as to the supposed dervishes or other saintly 
personages buried beneath them. Mr. Floyer, in his book 
on Baluchistan, says that he sometimes started a zierat, or 
shrine, himself, by collecting together a small heap of stones, 
as he walked on ahead of his caravan, and then waiting to 
watch his camel-drivers, who invariably added their quota of 
boulders to the cairn. 

We reached Kuhak on February 24th, having accomplished 
the distance of six hundred miles from Kerman in forty days, 
almost a record journey with camels, when it is remembered 
that a great part of our way had lain through desert, and 
that we had had to carry supplies of every sort. 

The servants were greatly excited at the prospect of 
ioining the Feringhee camp, and we noticed that they one 
and all became titled, evidently with the idea of impressing 
the Hindustani domestics whom they were about to meet. 
They no longer called one another by their plain, unvarnished 
names as formerly, but added such terms of honour as Beg, 
Meshtedi, or Sultan, never reflecting that in all probability the 
Indians would not be able to understand the significance of 
their dignities. 

We ourselves were hardly less excited at the thought of 
congenial English society, after having been so many months 
away from civilisation ; and it was with much delight that 
we saw the gleam of white tents on the plateau above the 
wide bed of the Mashkid River, and were hospitably 



266 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

welcomed by Colonel (now Sir Thomas) Holdich and his 
staff. 

Kuhak itself is a prettily situated village among palm- 
groves and running streams, with a mud fort on the spur 
of the hillside. The houses are either square mud hovels 
with holes for door and windows and thatched with palm- 
leaves, or koutuks, i.e., dwellings composed entirely of palm- 
leaf thatch on a framework of boughs. 

It was from here that the work of the Frontier Commission 
was to begin, as the little district of Kuhak was one of the 
disputed points between Persian and British Baluchistan left 
unsettled during the Goldsmid Mission, as was also a stretch 
of some three hundred miles of frontier stretching up to the 
river Helmund. 

On the day following our arrival the Persian Commission 
rode in in great state, with the band playing, and entered 
their camp, which was pitched on the opposite side of the 
Mashkid River to that of the English. The first question 
to be settled was which party was to call on the other. 
Europeans may think that it mattered very little, but any 
one versed in Oriental etiquette will understand that on such 
a point would probably hang the entire future relations of 
the two parties. The Persians naturally wanted the English 
to call on them first, but as the Itisham had paid the first 
visit to my brother as Consul of Kerman, he could not do 
less by Colonel Holdich the Commissioner. The old Assad- 
i-Dowleh tried hard to make a fuss about the business, but 
the Farman Farma, who proved himself an invaluable ally 
of the English, warned him by every post that he would be 
called to account should he obstruct the Commission in any 
way. After this matters went on smoothly, and the boundary 
pillars began to be erected, these being huge cairns of 
boulders, built up by a sepoy work-party on several of the 
most conspicuous hills along the line of demarcation. One 
day we climbed to the top of one of these low shale ranges, 
and I took a photograph of the pillar and the English party 
while we waited for the Persians to join us. These latter 
made much ado about ascending the hill ; and really it was 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 267 

a comic sight to watch the Assad-i-Dowleh being pulled up 
in front by his bandmaster, and pushed from behind by a 
servant, until he arrived at the summit and sank down in a 
heap. He confided to Nasrullah Khan that nothing would 
have induced him to attempt this feat, but the fear that I, 
sitting up aloft, would laugh at him if he declined. 

From this point of vantage the country lay spread out 
before us, and the old Governor could show the direction in 
which lay the valuable date-groves, the quarrelling about 
which was the reason for a demarcation of one of the 
barrenest, most desolate and stony regions imaginable. 

It was fortunate that my brother was good at talking 
Persian ; for the English interpreter, an Afghan, was not 
readily understood by the Persians, and their interpreter's 
(fat Haji Khan) English was of the most elementary 
description. 

It was at this point that one of the difficulties of the de- 
limination began, the Assad-i-Dowleh trying to make trouble 
by proposing a ten days' delay, a reference to the authorities 
at Tehran, and so on ; but during the next day Nasrullah 
Khan and Haji Khan went continually backwards and for- 
wards between the two camps, and the result of their 
unusual amount of exercise was the removal of all friction 
for the time being. 

Although Orientals have a love of procrastination, yet on 
this occasion, owing to a variety of causes, the Persians des- 
patched their business with commendable rapidity. One 
reason that urged them was their horror of any great heat. 
The climate of Baluchistan is well-nigh unendurable during 
the summer months, and even now, at the beginning of 
March, we were always in shelter by nine o'clock at latest, 
as the sun was getting fiercer daily ; and we noticed that the 
Persians, stout, and little addicted to taking exercise, were 
much less able to bear the heat than we were. 

At the close of our week at Kuhak the English Com- 
missioner invited the Persians to a formal dinner-party, 
which did much to promote friendly relations. The arrange- 
ment of the guests was a matter of some consideration, as 



268 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

there was a lack of languages in common ; but somehow 
every one understood his neighbour more or less, and when 
Colonel Holdich proposed the health of the Shah the toast 
was received with enthusiasm, and followed by those of our 
Queen and the members of the two Commissions. 

Personally I was glad when we left our camp at Kuhak, 
for it was by no means an attractive spot. We were perched 
on a hard, gravelly plateau above the broad, boulder-strewn 
bed of the Mashkid River, and behind us lay range after 
range of barren, arid hills, where scarcely even a sand-part- 
ridge was to be seen. 

The so-called river was dry at the point we touched it, 
with the exception of some few pools at intervals, and it was 
difficult to realise the Baluchi proverb that says, " He is a 
dead man who stops to fasten his shoe in the bed of the 
Mashkid ; " but of course this refers to later on in the year, 
when the melting snows from distant mountains send swirl- 
ing torrents along these usually empty channels. When 
we were at Kuhak the river-bed was overgrown with 
tamarisk and oleander scrub, and from beneath its great 
boulders peeped out a dainty little plant like a miniature 
bougainvillia. Kuhak, and indeed the whole of Persian 
Baluchistan, is a "most distressful country" for horses. 
The ground is so thickly strewn with boulders and stones 
that it is hardly ever possible to go out of a foot's pace, which 
my brother and I found so monotonous that we got into the 
habit of walking all the short marches when they were only 
about twelve to fifteen miles. 

We were really in the country of the camel, and although 
I was prejudiced against that slow- moving, evil -smelling 
animal, yet its supreme usefulness grew on me by degrees. 

The Baluchi camels were for the most part small and 
underfed, each one being led by a cord fastened through 
its nostrils — a most cruel arrangement — and having a driver 
apiece, who had an interest in the animal, owning one of 
its legs in lieu of pay or rations ; and, in consequence, 
grumbling if it had to carry any save the smallest of loads. 
As these burdens are fastened on in most careless fashion 



TO KUHAK AND THE FRONTIER COMMISSION 269 

frequent halts have to be made to readjust them, and this 
process appears to be extremely repugnant to the camel 
mind. The creatures groan and roar as if possessed during 
the operation, opening their long jaws wide, and grumbling 
and gurgling somewhat like a very naughty boy in a 
tremendous passion, and even when they are up on their 
springy padded feet again they utter more remonstrances, 
and twist up their absurdly inadequate tails. The Baluchis 
ride one behind another on their camels, and the man who 
has the front seat climbs with his bare feet up the shoulder 
and neck of the lofty beast, which only kneels to receive 
one of its riders ; the creatures are driven by a rope halter, 
and guided and punished by being struck on the neck with 
a light stick. The human voice comes much into play in 
this part of the world. Noises somewhat resembling such 
sounds as " M-m-m " and " Dru-u " urge the camels on ; 
while a sort of " Hah " induces them to quench their thirst, 
when there is enough water ; they would probably stand by 
the pool or stream, wrapt in a reverie, for an hour at a time 
if this form of persuasion were not resorted to. " The life 
of a camel is but forty days " is a Baluchi proverb, referring 
to the little hold these primeval sort of creatures appear to 
have of existence, a camel lying down and giving up the 
ghost on the merest pretext. On the other hand, they are 
wonderfully good climbers, carrying their loads up and down 
the steepest passes ; and we noticed that whenever they 
were unloaded and let loose they invariably made their 
way to the summit of the low hills and would stand there 
silhouetted against the sky-line. 



CHAPTER XX 

WITH THE PERSO-BALUCH BOUNDARY COMMISSION 

WE left our first camp at Kuhak on March 3rd, and 
it may be as well to give some account here of 
our mode of progression. 

The English Commission had a small detachment of 
Bombay Cavalry and a company of sepoys, both under the 
command of Lieutenant Price, of the Baluchi Rifles, the 
cavalry always escorting Colonel Holdich, and the foot- 
soldiers starting off at an early hour daily to march the entire 
distance between the halting-places. These latter were well- 
set-up men, and wore a most serviceable khaki uniform — 
tunics, turbans, baggy trousers and puttis being of the same 
dust colour — their ammunition and water-bottles slung 
from broad belts, while they carried their rifles over their 
shoulders. Their departure from camp between 3 a.m. and 
4 a.m. was attended with a ringing cheer — a signal to us that 
it was high time to be bestirring ourselves for the day's march. 

The piskkhana, or advance-guard of camels, always left 
camp during the afternoon of the preceding day, carrying 
on an extra set of tents and the stores to the next halting- 
place ; but notwithstanding this diminution in its numbers, 
the Commission was a most imposing procession, or series 
of processions. Hundreds of loaded camels plodded along, 
each camel's nose bored with a small wooden nut to which 
was fastened a cord attached to the tail of the animal in 
front of it, and some of the creatures were furnished, instead 
of the usual loads, with great, shallow baskets, one on each 

side, in which reposed sick sepoys or disabled camp-followers. 

270 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR Y COMMISSION 27 1 

The leading camels were often hung with much betasselled 
woollen Yopes studded with small white cowries and tinkling 
with bells, while a kind of worsted garter was worn by a 
favoured few, and the young ones trotted along by the side 
of their loaded mothers, and were never fastened in any way. 

After passing the camels we would come upon the one 
dhoolie, or litter, or the flocks of sheep and goats, slowly 
driven along by a tall Baluch with wild cries, these creatures 
supplying the camp with milk and meat, and diminishing 
greatly in numbers as the Commission drew to its close. 
Then we would get up with the detachment of brisk, sturdy 
mules laden with the ammunition, or perhaps overtake the 
sepoys, who always made a halt on the way. 

These latter had picked up some pets since coming into 
the country. A baby moufflon kept close to one man, and a 
fat-tailed sheep faithfully followed another, not to speak of a 
tazi> or greyhound, which always wore a coat on the hottest 
marches. 

A contingent of wild-looking Baluchis, armed with rifles 
and long, curved knives, and carrying shields, were a frequent 
sight, looking picturesque mounted in pairs on their running 
camels, their white garments fluttering as they rolled along ; 
or perhaps a Baluchi Governor, anxious to pay his respects 
to the Assad-i-Dowleh, would gallop his little horse ruth- 
lessly over the stony plain, he and his followers clad in gay 
silk tunics, and their mounts covered with the most gorgeous 
saddle-cloths. 

From Kuhak to Jalk we travelled with the Persian Com- 
mission and the Governors of Baluchistan, whose horses, 
mules, and camels moved along in a great mass, mixed 
up with the army and its donkeys. My brother and I used 
to walk in the chilly hours before dawn, but had, however, 
to mount almost as soon as the sun rose, as it sprang up 
suddenly into the sky and seemed to flood the country 
with an intense light and heat, making us thankful for pith 
hats even at this early hour. We were generally in camp 
by 8.30 a.m. at latest, very ready for the breakfast spread in 
the big pishkhana tent, after which we amused ourselves 



272 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

as best we could until our caravan turned up with our camp 
equipage, and we could indulge in the luxury of baths, 
and have a siesta during the heat of the afternoon to make 
up for our short nights. It was impossible to go out until 
after 5 p.m. ; but I occupied myself with writing this book, 
and luckily we were by no means badly provided with 
literature, exchanging books with the officers of the other 
camp, which was usually pitched at a short distance from 
ours. 

Nearly every afternoon, about four o'clock, we were visited 
by a sand-storm — by no means an agreeable experience if 
it happened to be a violent one. Nothing heralded the 
approach of these shaitans (devils) as the servants called 
them ; but suddenly the tent might be blown down upon us, 
as happened twice, by a sort of miniature tornado, and oh, 
the dust ! Everything was thickly coated with sand, our 
faces, books, and writing materials covered, hair and ink-pots 
full of it in a second ; and when it had passed away and the 
tents were swept out, it was almost impossible to write, 
so gritty were pens and paper, and so sore were our eyes 
from the sharp particles of sand. 

Our worst experience of this kind was a never-to-be- 
forgotten night that we spent at Lajji during the beginning 
of March. This place was one of the prettiest we had ever 
camped in, being a broad, stony valley, intersected by a 
stream, which divided into half a dozen branches fringed 
with rushes, coarse yellow grass, and graceful palms, while 
bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, and dragon-flies were in 
abundance. 

Several queer old mud forts were dotted about, on one of 
which a formidable stuffed dummy was erected to scare away 
simple-minded besiegers, the story being that it was manu- 
factured by a dervish, who promised that, as long as it stood 
there, the fortress would never be taken. The whole scene 
was so charming that Colonel Holdich made a beautiful 
sketch of it, allowing me, as usual, to try my prentice hand 
at daubing under his skilful eye. 

The English camp on this occasion was pitched on a 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR Y COMMISSION 273 

barren plateau, surrounded by low hills, and far above the 
deliciously cool and rippling river ; but as it was a windy 
day my brother ordered our tents to be pitched on a small 
oasis below the aforesaid plateau, where it seemed much 
quieter, and we retired to rest as usual. 

At 11 p.m., I was aroused from my soundest sleep by 
feeling the tent flapping my face violently, while clouds of 
dust and grit were swirling in, and before I quite realised 
what was happening, my table, chair, and washing appa- 
ratus were on the ground, and all my clothes and small 
movable articles were whirled out of the tent and into the 
darkness. The wind was roaring and shrieking with a 
terrific violence, and I clung desperately to my wavering 
tent-pole, calling Bargi, who slept in the back part of my 
tent, to come and assist me. I had a vague idea of going to 
my brother, but found the gusts of wind so formidable, and 
the torrents of rain descending so drenching, that I had 
perforce to desist. 

After holding on for a considerable time to my rocking, 
swaying pole, very cold and almost overpowered with sleep, 
I heard the welcome voice of Ali Agha, who had come 
to hammer in my pegs, and who called to me to retire, 
saying that he would make things all right, and that the 
Sahib was superintending the covering of the luggage with 
tarpaulins. As the wind had considerably abated in force 
I crept back to bed, thankful to feel that the worst was 
over ; but was shortly undeceived, for the hurricane soon 
recommenced with fresh vigour. The wind seemed racing 
and galloping overhead with a sound as of thunder or rolling 
artillery, flashes of lightning gleamed at intervals, and, of 
course, every peg was torn up again in an instant, leaving 
the guy-ropes hanging. 

The first part of the night was as nothing to this, and my 
brother sacrificed his own tent to come and hold one of my 
poles, while Bargi and I clung frantically to the other, both 
of them creaking and groaning till we felt that they must 
crack with the great strain upon them. At every gust 
clouds of sand poured in, half choking us, and it was with 

19 



274 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

great relief that we heard the rain descend, and at about 
2 a.m., the wind went down enough to permit us to resume 
our interrupted slumbers. I woke up to a scene of veritable 
chaos, and my dripping, muddy clothes, sponge, and other 
belongings were brought to me at intervals, as the servants 
rescued them from the patch of green barley, which had 
checked them in their wild career, and held them fast. 
The English camp had fared far worse than we had, being in 
a more exposed position, and the Persian Commissioner sent 
a pathetic message to the effect that he could do no 
Boundary work that day, as the whole of the Persian tents 
had collapsed during the night, and he and his followers 
were all ill from the effects of their drenching during the 
hours that they had been without shelter. 

At Aibi, a place a little further on, I noticed that the 
crowds of women surrounding my tent with cries of " Salaam 
Bibi" and offerings of dates and bread, were remarkable 
for their bad teeth, such a contrast to the gleaming, pearly 
rows usually possessed by Orientals. They wore the usual 
long black or white garments embroidered in yellow or 
red cotton, and had red or black shawls over their heads, 
many of them having nose-rings, usually big turquoises 
set in metal. All the women and children, save the poorest, 
were lavishly ornamented with bead bracelets, necklaces and 
earrings, mostly of blue glass, as this colour is considered to 
avert the evil eye. 

It was in this valley that one of our great excitements 
took place. The doctor was taking a stroll in the hills close 
to the camp about sunset when a grey bear, about the size 
of a small donkey, came from its haunts to have its evening 
drink in the stream running through the valley. Directly it 
saw the European it made towards him, and the latter, being 
armed only with a hunting-crop, judged discretion the better 
part of valour, and returned in haste to camp for his rifle. 

The other officers joined in the chase which ensued, but 
the bears (for this one turned out to have a mate) had 
got too good a start, and the pursuers only got glimpses 
of them, making off in a clumsy gallop, which covered 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR Y COMMISSION. 275 

the ground very quickly. This was a great subject of 
conversation, and the Baluchis promised endless bear-hunts 
to the Commission, but when it came to the point and their 
statements were severely scrutinised, it was discovered that 
they had indulged in the usual Oriental exaggeration and 
that, in reality, bears were few and far between in that 
part of Baluchistan at all events. 

We did not, however, lack for snakes, although we never 
came across many of them. As a rule two or three were 
discovered on each camping ground, and speedily despatched, 
one being found in Colonel Holdich's tent. For aught we 
knew these long, slim creatures with speckled backs and 
white bellies might have been perfectly harmless, but 
naturally we could not be sure. 

I remember one afternoon how, when writing in my tent, 
I looked up by chance and saw a long snake glide in under 
the curtain right up to me. I seized my riding-whip to 
despatch it, but it was out of my premises like a flash, 
and although I pursued it into the broiling sunshine, yet 
to my regret it escaped me. 

The barren land through which we were passing was 
inhabited by legions of lizards, making me sorry that I was 
no naturalist, as the great variety of species would have 
made an interesting study. Mr. Turnbull collected them 
for the Curator of the Bombay Museum, so we all tried 
to capture specimens for him to bottle. Some were large, 
waddling creatures, much like miniature crocodiles, and I 
always feared lest Tim, the doctor's fascinating fox-terrier, 
might get bitten by these saurians, which he pursued with 
great zest. We heard that an officer travelling in Baluchistan 
had lost two of his dogs from this cause. They caught and 
worried a great lizard and returned foaming at the mouth 
to their master, dying in much pain shortly afterwards. 

The work of the Commission went on steadily from day 
to day, although it received checks at intervals from the 
Assad-i-Dowleh's desire to give trouble, and the Itisham felt 
that he must object to every point as a matter of form "to save," 
as he expressed it, " his honour in the eyes of the Persians." 



276 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

A coldness, however, soon sprang up between the Persian 
Commissioner and the Assad-i-Dowleh, owing to the over- 
weening pride of the latter gentleman ; and this circumstance 
decidedly conduced to the speedy settlement of the line of 
demarcation which had practically been arranged at Tehran, 
as did also the frequent letters of admonition from the 
Farman Farma, carried on riding camels from his camp in the 
district near Regan. We were all amused by a small incident 
about this time. Colonel Wahab, R.E., who was undertaking 
the surveying and mapping, had put up some trigonometrical 
marks on a hill. The Persian party made up their minds 
that these were a new boundary pillar erected unknown 
to the Shah's representative and sent over their interpreter 
(save the mark !) to ask for explanations, while the Itisham 
himself visited my brother later in the day to apologise for 
the mistake and to assure him that it was only the Assad-i- 
Dowleh who had made the blunder ! 

On that same evening we nearly had a quarrel with the 
latter gentleman. He had, on one occasion, given us some of 
the white palm-tree pith, which tastes much like celery, and is 
esteemed a great delicacy ; it is quite a royal gift, as the palm 
has to be felled to procure it. 

Having understood that we appreciated his present, the 
Governor sent us over a plate of " pith sweetmeat," probably 
to make amends for his mistake about the boundary pillar ; 
but this stuff was indescribably nasty, and even Master Tim 
turned away his nose when some one offered him a morsel. 
Evidently Hashim, who was waiting at table that night, re- 
ported this incident to the Assad-i-Dowleh, for the latter 
visited Nasrullah Khan in high wrath the following day 
saying, " Not only did the Feringhees despise my gift, but 
they offered it to the accursed dog, which did likewise ! " 
Our mirza, with a truly Oriental disregard of stern facts, airily 
replied that he was at table on the occasion referred to by the 
Governor of Baluchistan and could assure him that his sweet- 
meat had been much enjoyed by all present. He took great 
credit to himself for so adroitly preventing the coolness which 
would certainly have arisen, but which, as certainly, would 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR Y COMMISSION 277 

have speedily passed away, for Persians allow a wide latitude 
to the eccentric European. 

From Lajji we made our way to Jalk, where we were to 
have a standing camp, sending a survey and party of men to 
Kuh-i-Malik-i-Siah (the extreme point of the frontier) there 
to erect the last boundary pillar as, since it was a waterless 
region, it was impossible for the whole Commission to go 
there. 

As we approached Jalk the inhabitants were lining the 
hilly path in dense, dirty white masses to see the tomasha. 
A great pool of blood marked the spot where a goat had been 
slain in honour of the Assad-i-Dowleh, and further on we 
passed a body of his soldiers dividing the animal. We made 
our way by mules, camels, sowars, infantry with all their 
accompaniments of bells, cries, and trampling, and came in 
sight of an old brick-domed tomb to the right of the road, 
while ahead of us the usual picturesque grey fort reared itself 
from among a grove of date-palms, in strong contrast to the 
barren route along which we had come. The braying of the 
trumpet of the Assad-i-Dowleh's army resounded near at hand, 
and in another moment we were upon the shabby soldiers in 
their dirty grey cotton coats and red trousers, marshalled by 
common ferashes armed with sticks with which to keep the 
defenders of their country in line ! 

As we were a fortnight at Jalk I must try to give some 
account of the place and its special points of interest, of most 
of which we took photos. 

On the day following our arrival we rode out with the 
Persian Commission and a great following of Baluchis to have 
a sort of international ride to explore the neighbourhood. 
Jalk consisted of about three miles of date-groves, watered by 
running streams, and was rich in crops of barley and wheat, 
millet, and beans, its gardens being crammed with fig, pome- 
granate, and orange-trees and vines. Here and there were 
strong forts built of large stones embedded in mud and seem- 
ingly most durable, and in them the people lived, emerging in 
veritable swarms to gaze at us as our cavalcade passed. 

The most interesting feature in the place were the tombs of 



278 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the Kaianian Maliks, this dynasty reigning as late as the 
eighteenth century until conquered by Nadir Shah. 

These mausoleums were mostly square enclosures varying 
from twenty to sixty feet in height, built of sun-dried mud 
bricks, and roofed in with pointed mud domes. The tombs 
lay on the ground, flat mud slabs, two or three placed one 
above another, and there was usually a hole in the roofs by 
which to admit light. Other mausoleums had an ante- 
chamber, in one of which we perceived traces of blue and red 
frescoed patterns, and the remnants of the blue and white tiles 
which had been embedded as a frieze under the line of the 
dome, while a third sort had an upper chamber, evidently 
reserved for the head of the house, servants and inferior 
members perhaps being interred on the lower floor. 

The mausoleum we passed when riding into Jalk had 
greater attempts at ornamentation than any of the others 
that we visited. 

Round its walls were a series of low, recessed arches in 
which were rough plaster bas-reliefs of horses, camels, and 
elephants, much like the early attempts of a child, so unlike 
were they to any of the animals in their normal state. Above 
these quaint figures were rude frescoed patterns in blue and 
magenta, entirely lacking in form and symmetry, and so 
unfinished that they gave us the idea that they must be the 
tentative efforts of some amateur artist who was perpetually 
leaving off one crude design after another in disgust. Inside 
this particular mausoleum a big mass of pebble and mud con- 
crete roofed in the vault of the king or chieftain once buried 
here, and two or three holes gave access to the rifled tombs 
inside, which, to judge from the quills strewn about, were now 
tenanted by porcupines. 

From the bare hills surrounding Jalk we got extensive 
panoramas of the country. Below us lay the villages peeping 
out with their grey fortresses and ochre-coloured mausoleums 
from among the lovely palm-trees, the date-groves ending 
abruptly in kavir, or salt marsh, and on all sides of them 
stretched low hills and desert, save for a line of palms showing 
where Ladgusht, rich in tombs, lay some fifteen miles off. 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR V COMMISSION 279 

The fertilising of the date-trees was going on, men climbing 
up the female trees and introducing a little of the pollen 
from the male tree into their flowers, which looked much like 
bundles of wheat ears. The male trees do not bear fruit, 
and the Baluchis eat their masses of flowers, which travellers 
affirm are not unpalatable. During our visit to Jalk the 
inhabitants were suffering from influenza, which carried off 
several of the poor people daily, as they were less able than 
usual to combat illness, the Fast of Ramazan drawing to its 
close, leaving the population in an exhausted condition. 

None of us, fortunately, were attacked by the scourge, but 
some were visited by a mad dog, which might have been 
worse. This creature came into my brother's tent one night 
and growled and snarled for a considerable time before it 
could be ejected. It then rushed into the tent of the Persian 
Commissioner and attacked him as he lay in bed, tearing his 
clothes ; but fortunately he drove it off, one of his guards 
coming in and wounding it with a sabre. On this the animal 
fled, but bit one of the sentries badly before it finally dis- 
appeared. 

I confess to feeling very uneasy the next night, as tents have 
so many entrances for an animal determined to push its way 
in ; but numerous precautions were needless, our nocturnal 
visitor not making its appearance. On the following day, 
however, I saw the poor creature dragging itself painfully 
along near our tents, and, as my brother was over at the 
English camp, I called AH Agha, the bravest of our servants, 
and, loading my brother's gun, told him to put the dog out of 
its misery. Unluckily it had reached the low hills surround- 
ing our camp before the boy could overtake it, and he re- 
turned saying that he could not find it. As I had noticed 
two or three crows hovering close at hand it is probable 
that its end was very near, for we never caught sight of it 
again. 

While at Jalk my brother and I went out every morning 
at seven o'clock to take photos and to exercise the horses at 
a foot's pace among the date-groves in the fresh morning 
air, crossing stream after stream, which reflected in their 



280 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

deep pools the palm fans, passing the young crops, among 
which was grown a peculiar double-eared wheat, and coming 
here and there upon a picturesque fort with perhaps a mass 
of reddish, waving reeds for a foreground, among which the 
small, humped cattle might be feeding. 

Palms and running water were everywhere ; but yet only 
a step away from the little oasis lay a sterile, shelterless 
region of stony desert and low, barren hills on which the sun 
shone with a pitiless glare. 

On one of our morning rides we had the grief of losing 
" Prince," my brother's favourite horse, a beautiful grey Arab, 
renowned for its speed in pursuing gazelle, and the gift of the 
Farman Farma. We were passing at the time along a narrow 
path composed of palm trunks, which edged a steep bank, at 
the foot of which lay a big pool of water. My brother rode 
on ahead, and to my horror I saw one of the palm trunks 
give way, and " Prince " and his rider half over the bank. 
The brave horse made great efforts to recover his footing, 
and actually managed to scramble back to the path again, 
trembling with fright. He seemed none the worse for the 
adventure until some hours afterwards, when he appeared to 
have a bad attack of colic. Everything that could be done 
was done, my brother superintending relays of servants who 
looked after the poor creature during the night. But all was 
in vain, and at two o'clock he passed away, both of us feeling 
that we had lost a real friend, so much attached had we 
always been to this gentle and affectionate creature. 

Nasrullah Khan tried to console me for his loss by saying 
that a Persian would consider that some evil had been lying 
in wait for my brother, but that it had fallen on his horse 
instead, the animal thus becoming a sacrifice for the man ; 
but this view of the case did not comfort me as much as he 
expected. 

On the night of March 16th the Fast of Ramazan came to 
an end, and the firing of guns announced the eed, or holiday, 
which terminated it, and the next morning we had to wait a 
considerable time for our breakfast, as all the servants were 
at a big prayer-meeting near the English camp, one of the 



THE PERSO-BALUCH BOUNDARY COMMISSION 281 

sepoys acting as mollah, and the Baluchi Sunnis prostrating 
themselves with fervour and muttering responses. 

The majority of the population of Jalk was squatting on 
the rocky bluffs overlooking the camp, their dirty white 
garments in striking contrast to the snowy attire of the 
Indians, among whom I noticed Sultan Sukru leading the 
prayers with a whole-hearted enthusiasm pleasant to see. 

On the day after Norus, on which occasion visits of 
ceremony were exchanged between the English and Per- 
sians, the International Gymkhana took place on a bit of 
desert, partially cleared of stones to make a course. Colonel 
Holdich ordered a tent to be put up, in which tea was served, 
and the various revolvers, knives, &c. (the prizes for the 
winners), were laid out. All the Persian party arrived 
punctually, the Assad-i-Dowleh looking very smart in a 
vivid blue cloth coat and cream-coloured trousers, and keep- 
ing an eye on his cotton-coated army, while hundreds of 
Baluchis assembled to see the novel sight. The first event 
was tent-pegging, done by the Indian troopers, then fol- 
lowed horse-races, donkey-races, foot-races, and camel-races. 
These latter were a revelation to me, and seemed as if taken 
from the " Prehistoric Peeps " in Punch. The unwieldy 
animals tore along at a surprising pace with outstretched 
necks, their riders seemingly mere bundles of dirty garments, 
which floated wildly in all directions. 

After these diversions a piece of the ground was smoothed 
for the wrestling, and the big Persian pahlavan strutted about 
defiantly, confident that he would easily beat his opponent, a 
Scinde man, chosen from among the sepoys. At this point 
of the entertainment I retired to the tent, and a great crowd 
closed in round the performers. After waiting about ten 
minutes I heard a mighty shout of " Ali ! " arising, and the 
masses of onlookers began to surge backwards and forwards, 
while, to my surprise, the Indian sowars appeared to be 
galloping into Persians and Baluchis alike. The Itisham 
and Haji Khan rushed to the tent, and the Assad-i-Dowleh 
galloped off to his own camp, surrounded by a swarm of his 
soldiers, who were with hearty goodwill actually belabour- 



282 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

ing their General ! A few stones began to fly, and as the 
plain was thickly strewn with these handy missiles, I thought 
we were in for something unpleasant. My brother's prompti- 
tude, however, saved the situation. As he had been starting 
the races, he was the only Englishman on horseback, so he 
hastened after the Assad-i-Dowleh and constrained him to 
return and finish the sports and assist at the giving away of 
the prizes. The cause of this row was that the wrestling 
aroused all parties to a state of wild excitement, as each 
side believed that to be beaten in wrestling was to be 
defeated in the race of life. The Persians, imagining that 
their champion was getting the worst of it, began to belabour 
his Indian opponent, and Mr. Price saw a man on horse- 
back lash at him with his whip. The English officer seized 
the fellow's bridle to send him to the Assad-i-Dowleh for 
punishment, when the man drew his sword upon him. The 
sepoys, seeing their officer threatened, made a rush at once 
upon the Persian soldiery in general, and so the fight began. 
As Mr. Price and my brother were in the thick of the fray, 
they intercepted many stones, and felt their bruises for some 
days, as also did the Assad-i-Dowleh. The whole mass of 
Baluchis, who had been looking on at the sports, rushed in a 
body to the English camp to offer their services in extermi- 
nating the hated Persians, feeling that the moment had come 
for them to avenge themselves on their conquerors. 

The Assad-i-Dowleh was naturally much upset at such an 
ending to the Gymkhana, and when the whole thing was over 
announced that he should have every one of his soldiers basti- 
nadoed ; whereupon my brother and I had the amusement 
of seeing the entire Persian army taking refuge among our 
horses, as in Persia a stable is always bast, or sanctuary ! 
Soldiers were squatted about everywhere under the palms to 
which our steeds were tethered, and there they stayed until 
the next day, when the Assad-i-Dowleh, finding the situa- 
tion embarrassing, came, attended by a single servant, and 
harangued them, promising to let bygones be bygones if they 
would return to their allegiance forthwith. 

After this eventful afternoon we all dined with the Persian 



THE PERSO-BAL UCH BO UNDAR Y COMMISSION 283 

party in a huge red umbrella tent, pitched on the bank of the 
stream, on the other side of which a large space was fenced 
in with palm leaves. We had an excellent Persian dinner, 
our servants doing the waiting as usual, and the Itisham 
made a fine speech about the Queen, calling her the " ruler 
who dwelt in the shadow of Allah," the band playing our 
National Anthem in style. After dinner we sat by the 
stream, dammed up to form a cascade, watching the fish 
which were attracted to the lights, and listening to the dis- 
cords of the band, chiefly composed of small boys, whose 
great idea was to blow with all their might, the continuous 
fortissimo being deafening at such close quarters. One of 
our party said he would like to annihilate a youth who 
clashed a pair of broken cymbals with much zeal, but I felt 
that if it came to that three parts of the band, which num- 
bered some thirty performers, would have to be doomed, as 
nearly every instrument was out of tune ! Every one, more- 
over, performed on his own instrument without the slightest 
relation to the others, time and tune being disregarded with 
a fine recklessness, the bandmaster, who sat at table with us, 
never turning a hair at the pandemonium. 

We also had "fireworks" at this banquet, one of the Persians 
striking a peculiar sort of match, which had a rose-coloured 
flame, and flinging them, one after another, up into the air. 

On March 24th the whole Frontier Commission was satis- 
factorily finished, the treaty and maps signed, and we all 
were packing up for a start on the morrow, the Persians to 
return to Kerman, Nasrullah Khan accompanying them to 
act as agent there during my brother's absence, and we 
ourselves to march to Quetta with the English party. 

Colonel Holdich gave a farewell dinner that night, which 
went off with much spirit, and was a good termination to the 
Frontier Commission. Fat Haji Khan came to the front 
that evening, and sang a Persian song with zest, electrifying 
us when he suddenly struck up the " Highland Laddie," 
which had been taught him, so he told us, by an English 
lady, to whom he became tenderly attached during his stay 
in London. Haji had further composed a Persian poem on 



284 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the doings of the Commission, with moon, stars, rose-gardens, 
nightingales, and London experiences all thrown in, and had 
sent it to Nasrullah Khan to translate it for him into Eng- 
lish ; but the latter declined the task, saying the whole 
effusion was utter nonsense, which perhaps deprived us of 
a great intellectual treat ! 

Our goodbyes were most effusive, every one hoping to 
meet every one else again, and numerous and fervent were 
the handshakings and pretty speeches as we said adieu to 
our Persian friends. 

Next day we made our way back to Lajji, my brother and 
I being very sorry to part with Nasrullah Khan, who had 
been with Europeans for so long that he did not at all appre- 
ciate returning to undiluted Persian society, and so we began 
our 430-mile march to Quetta. 



CHAPTER XXI 

TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 

WE were now making our way towards the Highlands 
of British Baluchistan, but still suffered a good deal 
from the heat, which had often been 94 in our tents, making 
the midday siesta, with its accompaniment of buzzing flies, 
almost an impossibility. From Lajji we retraced our steps 
to our old camp at Isfandak (my third visit to that village) 
by a peculiarly narrow winding gorge, our path being along 
the dry river-bed at its bottom. A violent storm of rain and 
hail, with an accompaniment of thunder and lightning, came 
on during the afternoon while we were encamped in this 
aforesaid gorge, and we feared lest there might be a flood 
during the night, which would infallibly have swept us all 
away, as there was no foothold on the steep cliffs on either 
side of us ; but fortunately we were spared such a disaster. 
The days passed quickly as we marched across interminable 
stone-covered plains or got in among the hills, clambering up 
and down the steep tracks with some difficulty. At first I 
imagined that the whole country was one dull yellowish-grey, 
but Colonel Holdich's sketching lessons showed me what 
an infinite variety of tints and tones there were in reality, 
although the utter desolation and neutral-toned sterility were 
not attractive, even to the most enthusiastic traveller. This 
latter, as a rule, chooses the rare oases for the subjects of 
his paintings, and when he displays stately palms, running 
streams, picturesque forts, and domed houses embowered in 
lime and orange-trees to his friends at home, they naturally 
think that this is Baluchistan. We returned to Kuhak, 



286 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

here found a Kaianian Malik tomb resembling those at 
Jalk, and in a ruinous condition. It had four tiers of big 
square mud tiles on its outside walls with crudely executed 
geometrical patterns and images of primitive animals and 
quaint figures of men. One tile had an inscription to the 
effect that the mausoleum was erected in honour of Malik 
Shumsidin 1027 of the Hejreh 1617-1618 A.D. 

On April 1st we left the Mashkid Valley, crossing the 
river and some low hills, and so got into the Rakshan Valley, 
saying goodbye to Persian soil for a considerable period. It 
was the first time for weeks that we had been able to canter 
our horses, and the soft, gravelly soil was a delightful change 
after the region of perpetual boulders through which we had 
passed. It was still hot, and we breakfasted by moonlight 
at four or five o'clock, when it was quite chilly, starting off in 
the dim twilight before the dawn, the hour called by Persians 
" between the wolf and the lamb," and arriving at camp about 
8 a.m., in broiling sunshine which scorched me considerably 
in spite of my huge pith hat, two gossamer veils, and a 
cosmetic for my face. At night again it was quite cold, 
and the great changes of temperature made it very hard to 
avoid chills. 

Pleasant as the sand and solidified mud were to canter 
over, the water of the Rakshan Valley left much to be 
desired, and it was at times so salt that I felt as- if I were 
bathing in sea-water. I well remember one occasion when 
the couple of pools of water at our halting-place were sur- 
rounded with a white efflorescence of brine, and consequently 
quite undrinkable. It was a particularly hot day, not a 
cloud in the deep blue sky, and we reached camp very ready 
for breakfast, but found both the tea and coffee provided in 
the mess-tent too nasty to swallow. There was a supply of 
claret, which was produced for the evening meal, but as I am 
a water-drinker from choice, and this beverage, undiluted, 
was most unpalatable to me, I preferred to go thirsty to bed. 

It was a comfort to know that Panjgur, rich in water and 
palms, was our next halting-place, and we started for that 
village about half-past four the next morning, the chilly air 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 287 

before the dawn preventing us from feeling over-thirsty from 
the lack of our customary morning cup of tea. 

Some seven miles before we reached the village we passed 
through the big date-groves of Kalag, and then came a long 
stretch of desert before we arrived at the palms which 
dispute with Kej the claim of producing the best dates in 
the world. 

During Captain Kemball's tour of the previous year Mr. 
Parker, of the Bombay Artillery, returning from a parade of 
his troops, was nearly killed by a Panjguri, who rushed upon 
him with a knife and severely wounded him. The man, 
being a ghazi, or fanatic, believed that the meritorious deed 
of killing a Feringhee would transport him straight to the 
Mohammedan Paradise ; but Captain Kemball, Political 
Agent of Baluchistan at the time, ordered the would-be 
assassin to be hanged and his body burnt, thus, according to 
Mohammedan ideas, preventing his entrance into the heaven 
he was so desirous of reaching. 

As is customary in such a case in the East the relatives of 
the culprit were fined, and it was considered probable that 
they would try to wipe out their blood feud by an attempt on 
the life of Captain Kemball. 

My brother and I had forgotten this incident, which, how- 
ever, was brought forcibly to my mind that morning as we 
got near Panjgur. We were riding alone and unarmed far 
ahead of our caravan, and passed groups of Baluchis who 
salaamed politely, when I noticed that one wild-looking man 
began to follow us in the most persistent manner, running 
when our horses quickened their pace, and keeping close to 
us. I put him down at once as a ghazi or one of the relatives 
of the deceased fanatic of the previous year, and fearing lest 
he might have sinister designs on my brother, who looked 
remarkably like Captain Kemball in his pith helmet, insisted 
on riding between them, keeping a watchful eye on the object 
of my suspicion until we came in sight of our tents, when to 
my great relief he disappeared. 

Panjgur is said to have been inhabited by a lawless tribe, 
who extended their depredations to the Arabian coast, and 



288 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

thus forced Omar to send an expedition to exterminate 
them. Five of the chieftains were slain, and the name of the 
place was altered from Khurmabad to Panjgur (Five Graves). 

The inhabitants looked both clean and prosperous, and 
the streams were of crystal clearness, but nevertheless we 
were not sorry when our two days' halt was over, as Colonel 
Holdich took unusual precautions in the way of guards, and 
ordered none of us to go near the villages unless accom- 
panied by armed sepoys, which considerably hindered my 
photography. 

The houses were chiefly composed of palm leaves, the long 
leaf-stalks being stuck into the ground in a circle and inter- 
laced with palm fibre rope fastened at the top so as to form 
a sort of cage. Palm-leaf mats were placed over this 
foundation, or the interstices were merely filled up with 
palm leaves thrust between them, and I noticed some huts 
most neatly thatched all over with palm fans, tightly packed 
together. These dwellings seemed very small for human 
habitation, but in a land where our thermometers stood at 
94 during our visit at the beginning of April, the inhabi- 
tants practically passed their lives in the open air. 

We left Panjgur on Easter Monday, passing the ruined 
barracks and mud houses where the English troops were 
quartered until the garrison was withdrawn, and we noted 
two of the distinctive Kaianian Malik tombs in a ruinous 
condition, and very inferior to those at Jalk. 

To me it was a great relief that we were now in a country 
where we could trot and canter at intervals, as the weariness 
of sitting hour after hour on a lady's saddle and walking at a 
foot's pace was great. I used to vary my position by taking 
my cramped knees from the pommels and letting my feet 
hang down ; but the more I rode the more I saw the 
disadvantages of the saddle to which I was condemned. 
The side-saddle is by no means an ideal invention in my 
eyes. It is difficult to mount into it from the ground ; it 
is dangerous in riding among hills to be unable to spring off 
on either side in case of accident ; the habit is very apt to 
be caught on the pommels if the rider falls, and the position 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 289 

in which she sits cramps her much if persisted in for many 
hours at a slow walk, which is the usual thing in hilly and 
stony countries. Looking at it from the horse's point of 
view, it is much heavier than a man's saddle ; is very apt to 
give the animal a sore back ; the weight being on one side 
tires the horse, and it is more difficult to adjust. Some of my 
lady friends at Tehran always rode on a man's saddle when 
they went among the hills, modifying their habits to the 
altered position, which they all assured me was preferable 
in every way to that which custom obliged them to 
conform to. 

The first week in April we had a long march to Nagar Kalat, 
starting in the darkness, there being no moon, at three 
o'clock, and with some difficulty finding the track across the 
black, gravelly plain. However, Colonel Holdich, who had 
the start of us with his Baluchi guides, kindly got them to 
light bonfires on the path wherever they could find palmetto 
bushes to set in a blaze. It was about four o'clock when the 
small remnant of moon came to the aid of the dim glimmer 
of the stars, and then the " false dawn," called by Persians 
" the tail of the wolf" — a phenomenon very common in the 
East — made its appearance, and heralded the true dawn and 
the sun. 

The horses were wonderfully clever about keeping to the 
track, and seldom stumbled over the scrub which often grew 
on the winding path, too narrow for us to ride abreast. 
Before reaching our camping-place we passed the pishkhana 
camels, which had been fifteen hours accomplishing the thirty 
miles, which we had done in a third of the time. They 
looked quite worn out, and one poor creature had been cut 
adrift a couple of miles back and lay on the road, looking 
with appealing eyes at those who passed it by. A camel is 
always given a chance to recover ; for if it revives it can 
pick up a livelihood in any district, however barren, and will 
rejoin its own caravan, or perhaps be found and annexed by 
another one. 

It was somewhat comfortless to find no tents pitched on 
our arrival ; but there was nothing for it but to water our 

20 



290 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

plucky horses at two weed -covered pools, and, after tethering 
them, to rest in the blazing sunshine until some shelter was 
erected, and then to wait in patience for an hour, which seemed 
interminable, until a hastily improvised breakfast made its 
appearance. 

We had to make a two days' halt here to give the camels 
time to recoup after their unusually long march, and our 
party shot sand-grouse up the stream, bagging several of 
these pretty, mottled, brown birds, with yellow patches on 
either side of their heads, a most welcome addition to our 
limited bill of fare. 

All about this part of the country were traces of a once 
widespread cultivation, and the ruins of many apparently 
large towns. Colonel Holdich picked up specimens of 
pottery and glass beads in these mounds of debris which 
pointed to a higher state of civilisation than that possessed 
by the few and dirty inhabitants who dwell here at the 
present time. 

The whole of the valleys through which we were now 
passing were terraced, tier above tier of low slate walls often 
reaching some way up the sides of the hills, and these 
remains, which point to a much greater rainfall than at 
present, are called by the Baluchis Ghor (or Gabr) bastas 
(buildings of the infidel). Colonel Holdich was inclined to 
put them down to the Arab occupation of the country, 
in the eighth century, but he could not explain whence came 
the water to irrigate the vast areas once plainly under culti- 
vation and to fill the great storage tanks, indications of 
which we frequently came across. 

One theory is that deforestation, both here and throughout 
Persia, was the cause of the present dryness and barrenness 
of both countries; and probably it is so, as the rainfall 
of Tehran has become considerably greater in the memory of 
man, since Persians and Europeans have vied with one 
another in planting its environs. 

Shrines of holy men were frequently to be met by the 
roadside, and we noticed one walled in with tall, upright 
stakes on which were scratched animals and figures — a 



ki_ ^—i^—''' *PB 




f n 

>- . Hi 


1A 




: * 


^HIMK^^MkhjRMlilHHB 



A DERVISH WHO ACCOMPANIED THE FRONTIER COMMISSION. 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 291 

proceeding quite contrary to Mohammedan law. In other 
zierats the head and feet of the dervish were marked by slate 
monoliths, and in this country holiness, when interred, 
seemed to run to length, as many of these saints apparently 
measured several yards from head to foot. 

Very often near the track we observed large, round spaces, 
swept clear of the black, shingly gravel, and formed into a 
circle with low, upright slates, a small pile of stones being 
left in the centre. These are to commemorate Brahui 
weddings, the musician standing in the centre and the 
dancers posturing round him. Dr. Bellew, in his work 
" From the Indus to the Tigris," speaks of these chaps, 
as they are called, and explains that the name means 
"clapping of hands," the dancers thus beating time to the 
music. 

We were now in the country of the Brahuis, and noticed 
that the members of this tribe were more compact and shorter 
than the Baluchis, rounder faced and of manlier appearance, 
these differences to be accounted for in great part from the 
fact that they dwell among the cold hills and feed almost 
entirely on meat. 

Pottinger, who lived among them for a considerable time 
when he went his adventurous journey through Baluchistan 
disguised as an Indian horse-dealer, preferred their character 
to that of the Baluchis, praising their honesty, industry, and 
hospitality. 

Spring had come, and even in these wastes flowers were 
appearing. Low, spiky-leaved bushes were covered with 
what looked like masses of small white convolvuli, others 
had countless whorls of white flowers clustered down their 
long stems, while prettiest of all was a plant growing in tufts 
like sea-pink, sprinkled with a wealth of minute crimson buds 
which opened out into pink, starry blossoms. A few days 
later near Kalat I noticed rich, purple lilies, campions, dande- 
lions, small St. John's wort, yellow broom, and tiny scarlet 
anemones, quite an astonishing variety of flowers, while one 
plain was covered with pale lilac hyacinths in full bloom, and 
another with the mauve umbels of the wild garlic. The high 



292 THROUGH PERSIA OJy A SIDE-SADDLE 

spring winds were in force and we had not as yet left our 
daily sand-storm behind us, for which Colonel Holdich 
considered we should have been grateful, as in all probability 
it tempered what might have been an almost unbearable 
heat. Throughout our journey in Baluchistan the tempera- 
ture was never what we expected it to be. At Raze, for 
example, I find in my diary that on April 16th I was sitting 
wrapped up in a thick cloak during the afternoon, while 
Captain Kemball, who was in the same place during the year 
before, had found his thermometer at 95 on this particular 
date. 

We were steadily climbing up day by day, and at Gidr had 
reached an elevation of 5,300 feet, necessitating the opening 
of our boxes of warm clothing, and at night the temperature 
was below freezing-point. The plains about here were over- 
grown with strongly smelling wormwood or absinth, on 
which the flocks feed, and it is used as fodder for horses 
when dried. At Gidr we saw the last Kaianian Malik tomb 
that we met with on our travels, and in this neighbourhood 
noticed a new kind of cairn to commemorate the dead, i.e., 
a neatly built pile of stones surmounted by a large white 
boulder, which in the distance looked for all the world like 
a turbaned head. 

Gidr was a very pleasant halting-place with its fields of 
green barley, blossoming fruit trees, and profusion of scented 
willows in full flower. A river added considerably to these 
attractions, although it was but a marshy stream flowing 
between high sandstone banks. We looked down from them 
on to crowds of camels feeding on the tamarisk scrub 
growing close to the water's edge, and enjoyed the unusual 
sight of plenty of bird life. 

Scores of brown-backed snippets were paddling in the 
water, uttering their wild cries, and mostly too absorbed 
in fighting spasmodically with one another to mind our 
presence ; while the tame, yellow-breasted water-wagtails 
hunted for insects on the water plants. 

Flocks of small dun-coloured birds flew about, and 
the whole place resounded with their calling and chat- 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 293 

tering — a delightful contrast to the lack of life so observable 
in Baluchistan. I noticed one very pretty bird. Its head, 
wing and tail feathers were black, and all the rest of its 
body a delicate salmon pink, the bill being of the same 
shade. 

The Brahuis here were a handsome, lively race. The 
good-looking young chieftain of the village surmounted his 
snowy raiment with a gorgeous red and gold turban, and 
when my brother and I appeared armed with our camera, he 
came up and offered himself as a suitable subject for a photo- 
graph. His younger brother emerged from a koutouk near 
at hand, and the two striplings fell into one another's arms, 
embracing with as much effusion as if they had been parted 
for years, and then threw themselves into picturesque 
attitudes to be handed down to posterity. 

On April 22nd we reached Kalat, the capital of Baluchistan, 
which is at a height of some 7,000 feet, too high up for rice 
to grow, and where wheat and barley ripen later than in 
England. 

We rode through a low pass in the hills, and at once 
came in sight of the picturesquely placed fort and palace 
built on a ridge of rock above the town, which is an assem- 
blage of flat-roofed mud houses. 

The name Kalat signifies " the City " in Baluchi dialect, and 
the wild tribes regard their Khan, or ruler, with a consider- 
able amount of reverence. The brother of the latter, with 
part of the army carrying lances, came out to escort Colonel 
Holdich to his quarters ; and we found our tents pitched 
near the rows of low mud barracks in which Goorkhas and 
Pathans were quartered, and not far from the mud bungalow 
of the Resident. The valley, some eight miles in length, 
was well cultivated, and there were young crops in plenty, 
the whole place looking green and springlike, and having 
water in abundance. We had spinach, lettuces, onions, and 
cauliflowers from the Residency garden, and it was a pleasure 
to see apple, pear, and apricot-trees in blossom, not to speak 
of the reappearance of the familiar sparrow, which had been 
invisible throughout all the low-lying parts of Baluchistan. 



294 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

The telegraph line with its black poles seemed linking us to 
civilisation again, and it was hardly possible to imagine the 
condition of Kalat in the days of Pottinger, when it was a 
centre for Baluchi raiders. These latter were wont to ride their 
camels some eighty or ninety miles a day, and led crowds of 
Persians into captivity. Besides camels they used to ride 
mares on their chapars, as these animals do not neigh, and 
so highly were they valued for their speed and endurance 
that male foals were accounted but of little value and were 
usually destroyed. There is a local song about the feats 
performed by a Baluchi mare, which I was informed is 
frequently sung in the country. 

As, unlike the Turcomans, the Baluchis had not the 
markets of Bokhara and Samarcand in which to dispose of 
their captives, they were in the habit of ruthlessly killing 
men, women, and children alike if they had a sufficiency of 
slaves, being inveterate Sunnis, and, as such, savagely hating 
the Persian Shiahs. 

In spite of this characteristic Pottinger speaks of them as 
being most humane to their slaves, treating them as part of 
the family, in striking contrast to the methods of the Turco- 
mans. At Munshur Chur, our next halt, the women were 
most picturesque in long red gowns embroidered richly in 
yellow with a criss-cross stitch much like the work of the 
Russian peasants. Three lines of open kanats separated us 
from our camping ground, and we had to cross these by 
narrow bridges of boughs and mud, and were glad when we 
had left them behind us, as it would not have been a pleasant 
prospect if our horses had shied and dashed themselves and 
us into the depths below. When the English passed through 
to storm Kalat fort, they halted here, and we saw the remains 
of a small fort, the low mud enclosures for tents, and the mud 
feeding-troughs for their horses, the traces of their occupation. 
The crops round here were damin, i.e., dependent on the 
rainfall and not on artificial irrigation, and were usually of 
the scantiest. Their owners sow the ground and leave the 
corn to take its chance, coming at the right season to gather 
it in. 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 295 

After a couple of days we got into the rich Mustong Valley 
with great stretches of barley forming in the ear, and looking 
northwards we saw the peaks of Kuh-i-Cheltun (the Forty 
Beings) and Tukatu rising up, the former mountain having a 
quaint legend attached to it, recording how forty children 
wandering among its spirit-haunted rocks were turned to 
goats, which eternally hurl stones down upon any hunter 
rash enough to seek game in the mountain. 

The chains of villages reminded us of those we had left 
behind in Persia, as we zig-zagged in and out of their narrow 
lanes, between high mud walls over which fruit trees, scented 
willows, and trailing vines were peeping, the mulberries 
growing beside the frequent streams of water. It was now 
the end of April, and huge dung-beetles were flying about in 
all directions, occasionally coming into collision with us or 
our horses. They were, as a rule, busily engaged in rolling 
along balls of dung three or four times their own size with 
their back legs. It was interesting to see the speed with 
which they made off with these treasures, burying them in 
the sandy soil and retiring with them for the purpose of 
laying their eggs in them. Sometimes two would contend 
for the possession of a ball, one rolling the other over and 
over as it clung to it, or a couple would chivy an intrusive 
beetle away from their special possession. 

There were some peculiarly friendly little birds about here. 
Dun and grey-coloured, with white tails tipped with black, 
they went about in pairs, and seemed full of insatiable 
curiosity, as sometimes a couple would follow me quivering 
in the air just above my head, and uttering a note resembling 
the watchman's rattle of the robin ; and one night we 
heard the wild cries of the demoiselle cranes flying north- 
wards. 

It was at Mustong that I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. 
O'Hara, the first European lady I had seen for over a year. 
I had hardly realised how much I had missed the intercourse 
with my own sex until I began to talk with her, and I felt 
quite excited to think of all the female society I should enjoy 
at Quetta and Simla. We sold three of our horses to her 



296 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

husband in the P.W.D., disposing of the others at Quetta and 
Simla later on. 

The Baluchis in this Happy Valley looked prosperous and 
fairly clean, and I noticed many men wearing old scarlet 
military tunics, buttons, braiding and all. 

There was a low pass to be crossed before we could 
emerge into the Quetta Plain, and just before reaching it 
we got upon the new road which Mr. O'Hara was making 
from Quetta down to Kalat — a strange contrast to the ill- 
defined tracks along which we had proceeded hitherto. The 
road was cut on the side of a hill and was by no means 
broad, and at the narrowest point we met a great drove of 
female camels and their young, which were being driven by 
some nomad tribe into Baluchistan. 

The creatures were much alarmed, and seemed to have no 
clear idea as to where they were going, scurrying from side 
to side of the road, and groaning and roaring. Luckily we 
were on the inside, and wedged our frightened horses closely 
to the rock wall, as otherwise we should have run con- 
siderable risk of being pushed over the cliff in all the 
thronging and pressing. But with patience, the two parties 
passed one another in safety, and we congratulated ourselves, 
somewhat prematurely, however, as when we had reached the 
top of the pass we perceived some hundreds more of camels 
ascending from the plain in front of us and blocking up the 
road entirely. My brother rode on ahead slashing his 
hunting-lash like a stock-driver, and to my surprise the 
great drove was apparently seized with panic, for the animals 
all turned tail and raced to the bottom of the pass, going 
along at a tremendous pace. One small child, perched on a 
big camel, did not seem to mind all the hurly-burly in the 
least, and I quite envied him his coolness in the midst of the 
wild excitement around him. 

At our last camp at Sariab we were close to the railway 
line at the entrance to the Bholan Pass. Hashim and AH 
Agha evidently thought that I had never seen such a work 
of civilisation before, and took the trouble to explain its use 
to me, as both were acquainted with the little line at Tehran ! 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 297 

It was exciting to feel that we should be at Quetta and 
in the midst of civilisation on the morrow, and I busied 
myself in unpacking the clothes sent to me from home 
the previous autumn, and which had travelled in boxes 
stitched up in oilcloth. On April 30th we rode along a 
metalled road into the cantonment, having a lively time with 
our unsophisticated Persian horses, which persisted in shying 
at every wall, regarding with especial suspicion the ticca 
gharries as they rattled by, and almost refusing to pass the 
perambulators which we encountered along the shady roads 
planted with trees, before we turned down a drive and were 
in front of the fine columned portico of the Residency, where 
Sir James Browne welcomed us with genial hospitality. The 
luxuries of civilisation were indeed a treat after our lengthy 
sojourn in the wilds, which had, however, agreed so well with 
me that I had ridden from the Caspian Sea to India without 
half an hour's illness at any time of my journey. 

That afternoon Sir James drove us round Quetta and 
showed us all the sights. The Gymkhana ground was the 
scene of the investiture of the present Khan of Kalat by the 
Viceroy of India, and we were told how the Grand Stand was 
converted into a big Durbar Tent for the occasion, while 
soldiers lined the ground and cannon roared out salutes, 
much impressing the wild Baluchi chiefs who were assembled, 
with many hundreds of their followers, to witness the ceremony ; 
and at night the great peaks of Tukatu, Cheheltun, and 
Murdan were lit up with huge bonfires which could be seen 
at a distance of many miles by Baluchi and Brahui ; thus 
showing forth the power of the British raj to the remote 
nomad tribes. 

We were shown the handsome church, the long line of 
barracks, the club, the miri> or old fort — an unimposing mud 
erection, the centre of what was once the little mud village of 
Shalcot — and, most interesting of all, the new Parliament 
House for Baluchistan, a memorial to Sir Robert Sandeman, 
who had done so much to bring in the chiefs to allegiance to 
British rule. 

This building was an Oriental-looking structure, with small 



298 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

domes at each of the four corners, and a huge dome in the 
centre. Inside was a large assembly-room, out of which 
opened all sorts of small rooms, where Baluchis could meet 
in committee ; and Sir James had thoughtfully provided for 
the women, giving them places behind marble-work latticed 
screens, from which they could see and hear all the pro- 
ceedings. 

On May 2nd we left Quetta for Simla, and as our friends 
saw us off at the station and we said goodbye to our kindly 
host, we little thought that in a few weeks' time he, a man 
whom India and British prestige could ill afford to lose, 
would have passed away. 

It had been arranged that Sultan Sukru, Hashim, and 
Bargi were to accompany us to Simla, while the rest of our 
servants would proceed to Karachi, the syce going to visit 
his relatives at Gujerat. Bargi, however, intimated to me the 
day before that she preferred to stay with Ali the muleteer, 
her husband, to coming with me. I asked her whose servant 
she was, and who gave her her wages, and thought that the 
matter was settled. But on my arrival at the station Bargi 
was nowhere to be found, having hidden herself in the 
Residency gardens, and no searching could discover her. 

She had served me so faithfully for a year, and had 
invariably appeared so devoted to me and my interests, 
that I was hurt at this desertion at the last moment, and 
although I forgave her, yet I felt, as a Persian would say, " A 
cut string may be joined again, but the knot remains." 
However, there was nothing for it but to get into our com- 
fortable carriage, with its broad seats, its smoked-glass 
windows to keep out the glare of the sun, and its arrange- 
ment of wet kus-kus tatties to cool the hot air, and, accom- 
panied by an ice-box full of fruit and soda-water, we started off 
in high spirits for our three-and-a-half days' journey to Kalka. 

We had only been a few hours on our way when a station 
official handed my brother a telegram forwarded from Quetta 
with the terrible news of the assassination of the Shah on 
May Day by a fanatic, in the Mosque of Shah Abdul Azim, 
just outside Tehran. 



TO QUETTA WITH THE ENGLISH COMMISSION 299 

We feared that all Persia would be in an uproar, and that 
probably a general massacre of Europeans might take place, 
so my brother at once wired to Tehran for orders, expecting 
to be recalled to Kerman, and, as in that case he intended to 
send me home by sea from India, we pursued our journey in 
a very unsettled frame of mind. 

The Shah was to have celebrated his Jubilee on May 6th ; 
and whatever may have been the defects of his administration 
it was generally conceded that he was probably the most 
capable man in his kingdom, and that during his long reign 
he had been indefatigable in suppressing disorder in Persia, 
which had become, under his sway, one of the safest Eastern 
countries in which the traveller can wander. It was supposed 
that the crime, that cut short the life of Persia's king, 
originated with the Babzs, those followers of the Bab (Gate 
of Truth), as Mirza Ali Mohammed, the Mollah from Shiraz, 
designated himself, who was shot at Tabriz and his adherents 
cruelly suppressed some fifty years ago. It is said that 
Babi-ism would have infused life and spirit into the set 
ceremonial of Mohammedanism, although no true believer 
could well have yielded to the pretensions of the Bab, who 
claimed to be divine. Throughout Persia many men of the 
highest rank are credited with being Babis, but the sect keeps 
very quiet, and is seldom heard of. 

As so much has been written about India I will refrain 
from giving any account of the pleasant three weeks we spent 
at Simla with the Holdiches and other friends, and only say 
that while there my brother received orders to go to the 
Karun Valley and inquire into several matters connected 
with British commerce and recent outrages on Europeans in 
that part of the world. We said goodbye to our friends at 
the Queen's Birthday Ball, on May 28th, and the night of 
June 1st saw us on board the British India steamer Kapur- 
thala, on our way to the Persian Gulf. 



CHAPTER XXII 

UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 

THE Kapurthala had the reputation on the Persian 
Gulf of pitching and tossing more than most vessels, 
and for a couple of days and a night she did not belie her 
character, and I bore the worst horrors of seasickness in the 
suffocating atmosphere of my cabin, the portholes of which 
were perforce closed. On the evening of the second day my 
brother came and dragged me up on deck, and told me that 
he, all the servants, and even some of the officers, had suc- 
cumbed to seasickness ; but that we should be off Jask on 
the morrow, and well out of the region of the monsoon. I was 
indeed thankful for the good news, as these seasons of 
enforced starvation on the ocean always pulled down my 
strength considerably. Poor Bargi had suffered in company 
with the others, and was, moreover, ashamed of herself for 
having left me in the lurch at Quetta. I tried to meet her 
apologies and her attempts at embracing my hands and feet 
with becoming sternness ; but I felt that the devotion she 
had shown for me during a year ought to outweigh the one 
misdeed I could record against her, and we parted with 
mutual regret at Bunder Abbas, she weeping bitterly although 
she was returning to her home at Kerman in company with 
her husband the muleteer and some of the servants, and 
would soon meet her mother and children again, and I trusted 
be none the worse for her experiences while in the service of 
the Feringhee Khanum. Jask, with its picturesque old fort 
and its lofty telegraph buildings with their background of 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 301 

palms and greenery, looked a pleasant enough place of abode 
as seen from the ship ; but the Europeans living there have 
a very different opinion, the heat and fever telling on the 
strongest. Bunder Abbas, on the contrary, was most unat- 
tractive, its long line of mud houses being backed with the 
barrenest of hills ; but to me it was naturally interesting as 
being the port of Kerman and a place of great wealth in the 
days when the entire overland trade of Europe with India 
poured into it by way of the city twice visited in its prime 
by Marco Polo. 

We had but few first-class passengers on board, one 
European, a Turkish officer, a Persian merchant, and a party 
of ceaselessly chattering, white-clothed Hindoos who were 
bound for the pearl-fisheries. The British India steamers, 
however, take large numbers of deck-passengers, from whom 
they often have great difficulty in extracting their fares. 

It is practically useless to search these wily Orientals, who 
will hide their money in most unlikely places — between the 
soles of their shoes, for example — and the only efficacious 
plan is to threaten to put all defaulters ashore. Even then 
the required money is very often withheld, and the man 
allows himself to be landed, waits for the next steamer to 
stop at the port where he is left, gets on board and plays the 
same game, with the satisfactory result of being taken yet a 
further stage on his journey. 

As it is impossible to collect the fares until the vessel 
has started, and as time is of absolutely no account to these 
dwellers in the East, the latter often get decidedly the best 
of it with the British India line. 

The officers occasionally carry their lives in their hands 
when great mobs of deck-passengers are on board, as, if a 
fight arises, the English have to do their best to separate 
the opponents, and are very likely to be set upon by one and 
all. It has also happened that attempts have been made to 
loot the steamers by some gang who have come on board 
for that purpose ; so altogether it may be seen that the 
carrying of deck-passengers (who are often fanatical pilgrims) 
on the Persian Gulf is a service not devoid of incident. 



302 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

It was so hot in our cabins that we had our mattresses 
brought up on deck every night, and as I was afflicted with 
prickly heat the greater coolness was agreeable. Moreover, 
huge cockroaches — -insects to which I have an unbounded 
antipathy — prowled in numbers down below, rustling about 
the saloon floor at night in search of food. One of my friends 
always affirmed that the British India line boasted a breed 
which grew to an abnormal size, and that when Nature 
forbade them to increase in length they made up for the 
prohibition by broadening out until a tablespoon could 
scarcely contain them ! These formidable-looking creatures 
glided about my cabin freely, and I was sometimes under the 
delusion that they deliberately charged at me if by any evil 
chance they happened to be driven to bay, and I could never 
summon up courage enough to despatch them, disagreeably 
conscious of their proximity as I often was, the odour of a 
cockroach being unmistakable. They were not content to 
be merely seen and smelt, but we frequently had to taste 
them, as food overrun and nibbled by these enterprising 
insects acquires a peculiar cachet of its own never to be 
forgotten. 

As the British India line is a cargo line, we lay-to all day 
at the different ports on the Gulf, and native boatmen sur- 
rounded our vessel in their buggelows, chanting weird songs 
and uttering guttural cries as they handled their awkward- 
looking craft, bringing merchandise on board or taking it 
ashore from the Kapurthala. The weather was by no means 
disagreeably hot, at all events for those who had no need 
to exert themselves ; the vessel was most comfortably fitted up, 
the food excellent ; and with a pleasant captain and officers 
to help pass the time I quite enjoyed the voyage as long 
as we had calm seas. Mrs. Bishop, the well-known lady- 
traveller, had come out to Persia some five years before with 
the same captain, and I was never tired of questioning him 
about the lady for whose pluck and talent I have such an 
admiration. Lingah, celebrated for its pearl-fisheries, was 
certainly the prettiest place on the Gulf, its houses and 
minarets backed with feathery palms, while the mountains 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 303 

behind it were tinted in delicate greys and pinks. I was 
assured, however, that this vision of beauty would not stand 
a close inspection, so I did not land anywhere until we were 
off Bahrein. 

The principal island of this group is some twenty-seven 
miles long and ten broad, a sandy desert with oases of water 
and palm-trees. It was once held by the Portuguese, who 
were masters of the Persian Gulf for over a century, and the 
ruins of their forts may be seen here as well as at Hormuz 
and Muscat. 

But, to go further back in history, Sir Edward Durand's 
excavations, and those made quite recently by the late Mr. 
Thedore Bent, have led both travellers to the conclusion that 
Bahrein was the cradle of the famous Phoenician race, who 
were such remarkable seafarers, traders, and colonisers. In 
the interior of the island is a huge necropolis, and when 
Sir Edward Durand and Mr. Bent opened some of the 
double-chambered tombs (one room built above the 
other), they found fragments of carved and inscribed ivory, 
besides other relics, most certainly of Phoenician workman- 
ship. 

Nearchus (the admiral of Alexander the Great's fleet) 
mentions that he saw the tomb of Erythras, the Red King, 
when he anchored off Bahrein ; and it is interesting to think 
that somewhere in this City of the Dead, the monarch, who 
gave his name to what is now called the Persian Gulf, lies 
buried. 

At the present day the island is chiefly known for its 
pearl-fisheries, and when we approached it, early in June, a 
flotilla of pearl-boats, with full sail set, were making their way 
to the more distant reefs, from which they would gradually 
work in homewards. About four hundred vessels are engaged 
in this industry, carrying some eight to twenty men in each 
boat. Each diver is supposed to have an attendant, who lets 
him down by means of a rope weighted with a huge stone. 
This takes the man right down to the bottom, and he collects 
the oysters in a small-mouthed wicker receptacle, being 
drawn up every few seconds to take in fresh air before he 



304 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

repeats the operation. As Matthew Arnold so beautifully 
puts it : — 

" And dear as the wet diver to the eyes 
Of his pale wife, who waits and weeps on shore, 
By sands of Bahrein in the Persian Gulf, 
Plunging all day in the blue waves, at night, 
Having made up his tale of precious pearls, 
Rejoins her in their hut upon the shore." 

The profits are divided among the owners of the boat, the 
crew, and the divers, the Sultan of Bahrein taking his share 
as a matter of course. 

The whole industry is in the hands of a ring of Hindoo 
dealers, and they buy in all the smaller pearls by weight, 
only the larger ones being sold separately, and their price 
being fixed by the demand in the market for big pearls. 
I was informed that thousands of imitation pearls are 
yearly sent from Paris to Bahrein and Lingah, and these 
the wily Hindoos skilfully mix with the real article, 
making it almost impossible for an amateur to detect the 
fraud. 

Some of these dealers were on board our vessel, clad 
in white muslin draperies, wearing " reach-me-down " Euro- 
pean coats, and much-betinselled velvet smoking-caps. 
Several had a gold earring, with two or three fine pearls 
hanging from it, stuck in the upper part of the right ear. 
Two dandies had bandages fastened round their faces and 
under their chins, just as if they had the toothache, but 
this arrangement was merely to force their moustaches to 
grow in a specially wildcat manner. They were brisk, 
bustling, chattering fellows, and would wait at Bahrein for 
the return steamers, giving their pearls, stitched up in white 
linen bags, to the captain, to be stowed away in the specie- 
room. A captain will often give a receipt for 117,000 rupees' 
worth of pearls, and probably this sum does not nearly cover 
their real value. 

The Kapurthala had to anchor at some distance 
from Bahrein, as the sea is exceedingly Shallow near the 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 305 

islands, and we were soon surrounded by heavy native 
boats, the bronzed Arab rowers sitting with their backs to 
the sides of the craft, and propelling them in most un- 
scientific manner with oars shaped like great spoons, others 
being merely long poles with a square, thin bit of board 
fastened crossways at their ends. A kind of native yawl 
carried our party to within a short distance of the shore, and 
from the straggling, picturesque town a troop of the famous 
Bahrein asses, with their lightly clad Arab drivers, came 
splashing through the water towards us. 

These fine creatures, called white by courtesy on this 
occasion, were decorated with henna — tails, manes, forelegs, 
and chests in many cases reddened — others being spotted 
all over with the pigment until they resembled Noah's 
Ark animals. Their saddles were formed of two narrow 
pieces of bent wood lying flat on the back and curving 
over- the neck, and as stirrups and bridles were entirely 
lacking I confess I felt somewhat nervous as to how I should 
stick on. However, there was nothing for it but to select a 
steed from the crowd, which the yelling, screaming Arabs 
were pushing one against another, and as soon as I perched 
myself gingerly on its back it made straight for the shore 
without any hint on my part. The British agent, a Persian 
living in a showy-looking mansion, on which the Union Jack 
was flying, came out to receive us, and then we settled our- 
selves down to ride to the Bahrein wells. I would have given 
much to have dispensed with ceremony and sat astride, which 
I should most certainly have done had I been alone with my 
brother, but was obliged to cling on to the curved front of 
my insecure perch, having near escapes of falling off when 
my donkey stumbled in the middle of its rough gallop on 
one occasion, and one of the riders collided with me on 
another. 

We passed through the town, which looked much like a 
Baluchi village, most of the dwellings being composed of 
palm-leaf matting, and fenced in with stout palm-branch 
palisades. The Sultan's palace was a flimsy-looking, 
castellated construction, and in the space kept clear in 



306 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

front of it were several rusty old cannon, once belonging 
to a couple of antique fighting-dhows which lay close to 
the shore. 

A stretch of bare, sandy road brought us to big date- 
groves and streams of wonderfully clear blue-green water, 
and near at hand were the ruins of a large mosque with two 
minarets, built after the Persian manner. Not far from here 
were the springs, the object of our visit, and we descended 
from our asses to see a great tank of aquamarine-coloured 
water, its roof supported by one huge column of masonry; 
and beyond it, through the well-known Arab arch, lay a 
second tank of delicious water, the springs that feed it 
bubbling up strongly. On our return from this short ex- 
pedition, bumped, chafed, and jolted as I was, I was thankful 
to slip off my uneasy mount into the boat waiting for us, 
which the rowers poled for some distance through the shallow 
sea before hoisting the sail. Much of the fresh water to supply 
the town is procured from springs gushing up beneath the 
sea, and we watched men and women wading out with skin 
mushks or earthenware jars, which they pushed, mouth 
downwards, through the salt water to the fresh liquid below ; 
these springs gushing up with such force that they do not 
get brackish from their contact with the sea. The next 
morning we were still off Bahrein, and my brother went 
ashore again and visited the Sultan, who received him in 
gorgeous raiment, and gave him coffee out of a gold pot, 
so quaint that we bought a brass edition of it in the town, 
the pattern being a speciality of Bahrein. These pots were 
incised all over in concentric rings, and the spouts shaped 
like a bird's beak, perhaps copied from that of the ibis, at 
least so one of my friends thought. 

Although we were out of the region of the monsoon, yet a 
strong shamdly or north-east wind, arose, and when we lay off 
Bushire during a whole day I was unable to accept Colonel 
and Mrs. Wilson's invitation to lunch at the Residency, as 
the four miles of much-disturbed ocean lying between the 
ship and the shore would have been too much for so bad a 
sailor. The Persian navy, in the shape of one big white 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 307 

vessel, the Persepolis by name, was lying off Bushire, and 
was decorated with flags in honour of the enthronement of 
the present Shah ; while the Sphinx and Lawrence gunboats 
both lay in the harbour. 

Next day we were in smooth water again, steaming 
between low, palm-covered shores, from one point of which 
the little telegraph station of Fao arose. Beyond here the 
flat banks narrowed in, and we crossed the Fao bar with 
much caution, and reached Mohammerah, at the mouth of 
the Shat-el-Arab, the splendid river formed by the con- 
fluence of the Tigris and Euphrates at Kurnah, the legendary 
site of the Garden of Eden, and which has its outlet in the 
Persian Gulf. 

From here, leading into the Karun River, up which lay 
our destination, is a great canal connecting the two streams, 
supposed by some to have been made by Alexander the 
Great, but in all probability of much earlier origin. We 
stopped at Mohammerah, expecting to change over into the 
Malamir, the boat belonging to Messrs. Lynch and Co., 
which runs up to Ahwaz every fortnight, and which was 
lying off the Vice-Consulate. However, on inquiry we 
found that she would not be making her trip for another 
week, so we decided to take our passage in her to Busreh 
on the following day. 

Mr. Butcher, the acting Vice-Consul, an old acquaintance 
of my brother's, came out in his bellum, or native boat, to 
receive us, and hospitably insisted that we should be his 
guests for the night, and should leave most of our baggage 
and servants at Mohammerah, picking them up in a week's 
time. So we dined upon the roof of our host's house, which 
looked very pretty from the water surrounded by a vegeta- 
tion which, however, brought creatures enough and to 
spare into my bedroom. Bats flitted about, lizards crawled 
on the beams of the ceiling, locusts plopped down on the 
floor at intervals, a scorpion hurried into a dark corner, and 
the song of the mosquitoes was so loud that I was thankful 
to feel I was secure from their attentions, with my head and 
shoulders muffled up in a net made much like a meat-safe. 



308 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Next morning in selecting our baggage for our trip to 
Busreh I made a most unpleasant discovery. Neither my 
new saddle nor the box of photographic plates, which our 
agent at Karachi had been instructed to put on board the 
Kapurthala, were to be found. 

The saddle I had taken out to Persia had been worn out 
with constant and often rough usage, and this new one had 
been sent out to me from London, arriving in Persia last 
December, when our agents had lost sight of it as it 
wandered up and down the Gulf; and now for the second 
time it was lost, and my horizon was overcast with the 
blackest of clouds, my old saddle being quite unfit for use, 
and my hopes of taking numerous photos in the little-known 
region of the Karun being rudely dashed to the ground, nor, 
to anticipate matters, did I catch sight of the photographic 
plates and my saddle again until September. 

On the shores of the Persian Gulf, as well as in the country 
of Turkish Arabia, whither we were bound, and also along 
the banks of the Karun, dwell Arab tribes, and their Sheikhs 
are fine-looking fellows, wearing long white, gold-embroidered 
shirts, quaint slippers, and the great burnoos, or abba, often of 
some bright colour embroidered with gold at the neck, while 
the checked handkerchief, or kafia, is held in its place on the 
head by a black camel's-hair rope twisted with gold. Mr. 
Zwemer, the American missionary at Busreh, told me that 
this camel-rope was the origin of the aureole always depicted 
round the heads of saints, being drawn of unusual propor- 
tions in the case of specially holy personages. 

On June nth we started off on the Malamir for the 
pretty five hours' journey to Busreh, steaming up the fine 
river, on the banks of which grow the millions of palms which 
supply the greater part of the world with dates. About 
a mile from the dirty village of Mohammerah we passed 
Feilieh, the residence of Sheikh Mizal, one of the last of the 
old chieftains who bear rule over the wild Arab tribes. 
(Since our visit he has been murdered by one of his 
followers.) Every British India steamer passing up the Shat- 
el-Arab fires a salute when it reaches this house, in memory 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 309 

of the day when Sheikh Mizal's father went to the assistance 
of a British India vessel which was being attacked by a band 
of Arab pirates, and in sore straits. A cannon is placed in 
front of the chiefs house, who always returns the English 
salute with punctilious care. 

Much further up the river was another mansion belonging 
to some Arab Sheikh, who had painted the greater part of its 
facade a brilliant blue, to keep off the evil eye ; but I was 
told that ill-luck had haunted him and his family in spite of 
this precaution. Our crew were mostly Chaldeans from 
near Bagdad, Christians of the ancient and well-nigh extinct 
Nestorian Church, and fine, well-built fellows. Genial Captain 
Adey of the Malamir, however, told us that he never em- 
ployed them in steering, as they had no pluck and nerve 
should any difficulty arise, the Mohammedan Arabs being 
far more dependable in an emergency. As we got nearer 
Busreh, houses became more frequent, and we passed well- 
built, airy residences belonging to the different European 
firms engaged in the date trade here ; but alas, the whole 
place was flooded, as, owing to the melting of the snows 
in the spring, the river had risen some five feet. All the 
date-groves were standing in water about a foot deep, the 
bunches of fruit looking withered, making it a serious 
question as to whether the crop for the year might not 
be a failure. It is an Arab saying that the palm ought to 
have its roots in water and its head in the fire ; but on this 
occasion it was considered that the water had outstepped 
its due bounds, and was no longer a beneficent agent. 
Every garden was a swamp, the roses and flowers all dead, 
and the trees dying ; while the fruit and vegetables were 
practically destroyed, and, what was even worse, whole 
families of Arabs had been washed out of their palm-leaf 
matting houses and were camping on the few dry spots to be 
found, having in many cases to bewail the loss of cows, 
sheep, and poultry, the bodies of which could be seen cast 
upon the banks of the great river. 

The British Consulate was one of the best buildings in the 
place, and Captain Whyte, an old Indian friend of my 



310 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

brother's, came out to us in his bellum, and carried us off 
to enjoy a generous hospitality, to which, later on, we were 
to owe more than we could ever repay. 

Busreh has been called the " Venice of the East," and the 
title is not a misnomer, as the broad Shat-el-Arab might pass 
as a much-magnified Grand Canal, and branches on either 
side into dozens of fairy creeks stretching far inland, and 
fringed with palms, willows, broad-leaved bananas, and 
shady vines, which might be considered a counterfeit of 
the narrow canals of the Bride of the Ocean. To complete 
this somewhat fanciful resemblance, the river is always alive 
with bellums not so unlike gondolas in appearance, painted 
white picked out with blue or green, and poled along when 
near the shore by their Arab crews. The passengers sit on 
cushions at the bottom of the boat, and with an awning 
to keep off the glare of the sun the bellum is as much 
conducive to dolce far niente as the gondola itself. All 
luggage, merchandise, and cargo are carried out in these 
boats to the British India steamers or to Lynch's vessels 
running between Busreh and Bagdad, and I have even seen 
horses conveyed in them from one bank of the stream to the 
other. 

The only way to get about from house to house is by 
means of these native boats, as the creeks branching off from 
the main river separate many of the houses from one another, 
and during this time of flood the bellum was needed to be in 
closer attendance than usual, although, as is the case in 
Venice, it is possible to reach most places by dry land, if 
one knows the way. 

The city of Balsora, or Busreh, was founded by the Khalif 
Omar, and was famous as a great port before the rise of its 
rival, Bagdad, under the dynasty of the Abbasides. 

It was a celebrated seat of learning in the Middle Ages, 
and its colleges and professors were renowned throughout 
entire Asia, while it was from Balsora that Sindbad com- 
menced his voyages in some picturesquely painted dhow or 
mekalah, that has hardly altered since his days ; and it is the 
opinion of many savants that the romance of which the 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 311 

intrepid sailor is the hero was in reality compiled from the 
accounts of Arab travellers voyaging during the Middle 
Ages. 

After the taking of Busreh by Suleiman the Great, and its 
annexation to Turkey, the famous town fell by slow degrees, 
until at the present day it is hard to find even a trace of the 
exquisite architecture of which the old chroniclers tell us ; 
while its Bazaars, once great marts of all the merchandise of 
the Orient, were spoken of by our disgusted servants as being 
far inferior to those of Kerman. Mr. Buchanan, the doyen of 
Busreh society, which is composed of some fifteen merchants 
engaged in the date trade or in the export of wheat and 
wool from Ahwaz, and the traffic with Bagdad, took us 
several pleasant rows in his Thames boat up the lovely 
creeks in the evenings, and we could then appreciate the 
devastation caused by the floods in this land of the "Arabian 
Nights." A watery expanse marked the site of the golf-links 
and cricket-ground of the Europeans, the gardens and tennis- 
courts were small lakes, and further afield we came upon 
swamped palm-leaf huts, and saw the few cattle left slowly 
dying of starvation, as their grazing grounds were all under 
water. After the heat of day the evenings and nights were 
generally cool, as the blessed shamal was blowing at this 
season, and we got through the hottest hours between mid- 
day and four o'clock by taking siestas under the punkahs, 
which seldom ceased working at the Consulate, and reading 
Madame Dieulafoy's superbly illustrated book on Persia. 
Busreh in the early part of June was decidedly a warm place 
of residence, but neither of us felt exhausted by the heat, 
and it was not until our enforced stay in August that we 
properly realised the capabilities of its climate. 

Personally, I enjoyed everything, even to my taste of hot 
weather, which I hoped to escape from before long, as we 
expected to travel from Shuster among the high hills of 
the Baktiari country. Owing to Mr. Buchanan's kindness, 
I was able to replace my saddle ; but riding, even at six 
o'clock in the evening, was a hot pastime, and we had to 
make our way by narrow paths, along ' creeks, or between 



312 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

date-groves standing in water, looking out for the holes and 
broken places in the road with which our residence in the 
East had made us familiar. Occasionally we could get a 
five minutes' canter between mud walls or past the neglected 
graves of the horribly ill-kept cemetery ; but there was no 
real riding possible, unless we could get free from the town 
and into the desert, and this the lateness of our start pre- 
cluded. 

The prettiest " bit " of Busreh was its one bridge, spanning 
the creek with a high central arch to permit vessels to pass 
beneath it. On either side of it rose tall houses with pro- 
jecting windows filled with stained glass in elaborately carved 
and fretted frameworks. Crowds of natives flocked at this 
point, and on the water lay great laden buggelows with 
gaudily painted prows. Everything else had fallen into ruin ; 
most of the encaustic tiles which had once adorned the 
domes and minarets of the squat mosques having long ago 
dropped off, never to be replaced. 

At the end of our stay the shamal ceased, and the atmo- 
sphere became oppressively close, although we seldom had the 
thermometer above 95 . As the sun sank the whole place 
appeared to steam and the air to be filled with a hundred 
evil odours, many rising from the decaying vegetation in the 
swamps around the palm-trees. I wondered sometimes how 
it would be possible to survive when the water sank at last, 
leaving only green slime behind it, and my query was amply 
answered later on. If we sat upon the roof after dinner, as 
our custom was, our clothes would be soaked through by the 
heavy dew falling, and we understood the object of the palm- 
leaf shelters erected on every house to keep this feverish 
moisture from those sleeping at night in the open air. 

I did not feel the loss oiBargi nearly as much as I expected, 
for Fakir Mahomet took upon him to supply her place. I 
remember coming into my room one morning with the fixed 
determination to overhaul my wardrobe, when to my surprise 
I saw the syce seated on the floor of my apartment with an 
array of undarned stockings around him, which he was busily 
patching up in a quaint manner with the aid of my work 



UP THE PERSIAN GULF TO BUSREH 313 

materials. On seeing me he grinned from ear to ear, much 
delighted with himself, and remarked proudly, "Khartum, I am 
your Bargi now ! " and he further signified that he had taken 
me under his wing by appropriating one of the shelves in my 
room on which to stow away various purchases that he had 
made in India ! Ali Agha, the Fat Boy, who had behaved 
with conspicuous virtue during our tour in India, here suc- 
cumbed to temptation and made off to the Bazaar with a bag 
of coins which he got hold of through the unaccountable 
stupidity of Sultan Sukru. Being captured at a coffee-shop, 
where he was gambling freely, he had the effrontery to affirm 
that he had carried the Sahib's money to the Bazaar in order 
that it should be in safe keeping. Sharp and severe punish- 
ment was meted out to the culprit, and my brother dismissed 
him as soon as he got him back into Persia again. He had 
been with us so long that we quite regretted parting with him, 
and was, moreover, such a cheery, plucky lad, so ready to turn 
his hand to anything, that he would have been invaluable as a 
servant, if he could only have mastered the difference between 
his property and that of others. 

If we had only had time we should have greatly enjoyed 
going up in one of Messrs. Lynch's steamers to Bagdad, 
although for my part I should most certainly have been 
haunted with the fear of returning with the celebrated 
Bagdad boil, which, if it makes its appearance on the face, 
disfigures the sufferer for the rest of his or her life. It is 
much the same thing as the Persian salzc, so called from 
lasting a whole year ; and, what makes the matter worse, no 
doctor can explain what causes the boils, so that none can 
guard against them, nor is there any reliable cure for them. 

There are various theories as to their origin. Some say 
they are caused by the water ; others, that the flies carry the 
microbes from the pariah dogs, the noses of which are 
generally afflicted with this complaint ; but the usual opinion 
is that the germs are contained in the soil of the city. 
Old houses built of the sun-dried mud bricks have an evil 
reputation on this account, and children almost invariably 
fall victims. 



314 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE . 

The Goanese, besides being employed as servants in some 
parts of India, are to be met with all down the Persian Gulf, 
and at Busreh and Bagdad. These little dark men make 
excellent cooks, waiters, and stewards, always looking spot- 
lessly clean in their European white clothing, and being, as a 
rule, alert and most intelligent. 

They are very proud of their European origin, and rejoice 
in high-sounding Portuguese names, and even in such titles 
as Duke or Count ! 

I was told that they are greatly attached to their tiny 
fatherland, to which they pay visits at intervals, reading its 
newspapers assiduously, and they are devout Roman Catholics, 
never forgetting that Goa has the distinction of possessing 
the remains of the heroic missionary St. Francis Xavier. 

As the Arabs make far worse servants than even the 
Persians, it will be understood how highly appreciated the 
Goanese are, and I heard their praises sung on all sides. 

On June 19th we bade goodbye to Busreh and its 
hospitable English colony, steaming down between the low 
flooded palm-covered shores of the broad Shat-el-Arab in 
the launch of the Lawrence, lent us by the kindness of 
Captain Piffard. We were again leaving civilisation behind 
us, and my thoughts were now bent on the Baktiari country 
and its lofty passes where we should not feel the summer 
heats. At Mohammerah we removed our luggage from the 
steam-launch to the Malamir, and with many goodbyes 
to our kind hosts and reiterated hopes of meeting in the 
future, we turned our faces north, and were soon on the snow- 
fed waters of the Karun, the one navigable river of which 
Persia can boast. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 

THE whole climate appeared to change as soon as we 
had left the palms of the Shat-el-Arab behind, and 
were surrounded by a sandy desert stretching on either side 
of us to the line of the horizon. The enervating damp heat 
of Busreh had given place to a very different kind of warmth, 
so dry that it seemed almost bracing by comparison. 

A high, hot wind blew clouds of burning sand from the 
desert wastes, and the disturbed waters of the Karun reflected 
the glare of the sun with a million facets, very speedily 
making us have recourse to our blue glasses; and we felt 
vitality and energy returning to us, and slept that night as 
we had never done under the waving of the punkahs at 
Busreh, where the great question of life seemed to be how to 
keep fairly cool. 

The scenery on the river was highly monotonous. The 
Sahara was partially flooded, and grass, with occasional 
willows and banks of reeds, grew close to the water, while 
flocks of pelicans and small white gulls gave a touch of life 
to the picture. It would have been delightful to have seen a 
lion stalk along the banks, a sight vouchsafed to travellers 
in the days before deforestation took place, and when the 
Karun, as described in Layard's delightful " Early Adven- 
tures," was thickly wooded ; but not even a gazelle, much 
less a hyaena, met my eye. Every now and again the 
Malamir stuck on one of the sandbanks of which the river 
abounds, and had to plough its way through ; later on in the 

315 



3i6 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

season, when the Karun is low, this being a matter of con- 
siderable difficulty. The water, fed from the snows of the 
Baktiari hills, is renowned for its coolness and excellence, 
Bushire being supplied with it, as the tanks of that town are 
infested with the guinea-worm, and it tasted as nectar and 
ambrosia in comparison to the boiled and filtered liquid 
drawn from the Shat-el-Arab. Further up the river the 
banks were of high sandstone, and nomad tribes in palm-leaf 
matting huts were encamped here and there, their mares 
picketed near at hand with manes and tails flowing wildly in 
the wind. Men and women alike were clad in long, black 
garments, made from the wool of their goats, and crowded to 
the banks to see the Malamir go by. Not far from our 
destination was Sheikh MizaPs summer residence, almost a 
village of matting huts, where the chief exercised patriarchal 
sway, surrounded by his tribe with their flocks and herds 
and much-beloved mares, in a district where the pasturage 
seemed to be good. 

On the afternoon of the second day we neared Ahwaz, or 
Bunder Nasseri, to speak more correctly, as the former town 
is further up the river, and has decreased in importance in 
proportion as its rival has grown in prosperity. When Mr. 
Curzon was here in 1892 he wrote of a dirty village composed 
of a few mat huts, but now it is almost a town with an 
imposing erection doing duty as the Governor's palace ; and 
two large houses, which at the time of our visit were inhabited 
by Messrs. Hotz's agent and the captain of the s.s. Skusan, 
rose above the mud-built bazaar. 

We anchored at the wharf belonging to Messrs. Lynch, 
in front of a well-built, comfortable-looking house, and 
were surprised to hear Mr. Parry (Messrs. Lynch's agent) 
asking in anxious tones whether the doctor were on board. 
There was no doctor with us, owing, as we afterwards found, 
to the not infrequent occurrence of the Persian telegraph 
wire which connected Bunderi Nasseri with Mohammerah, 
and so with Busreh, being broken ; and sorry indeed we 
were when we learnt the cause of these inquiries. Mr. 
Tanfield (Messrs. Lynch's agent at Shuster) had been 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 317 

brought down that day from that fanatical city in a terribly 
mutilated condition. 

One of his servants, a man Saduk by name, had stolen his 
master's watch and also some money, and when Mr. Tanfield 
paid him his wages he deducted part of them to punish the 
man, whom he could not well dismiss as no other servant was 
to be had at Shuster. Upon this Saduk vowed vengeance on 
his employer, and even went so far as to tell his fellow- 
servants that he would have his life. 

On the night when he made his criminal attempt he came 
up some three or four times to the roof where his master and 
the Armenian clerk were in the habit of sleeping before he 
found Mr. Tanfield really asleep. He then set upon him 
with a sword, and when his master woke and parried the 
blow he cut off his left hand, mutilated his face terribly, and 
leaving him for dead went to rouse up the town, affirming 
that his employer had been attacked and killed by Persian 
thieves. This story was, however, not credited, as Dromio, 
the Goanese cook, had met Saduk on his descent from the 
roof, and had fled in fear of his life from the ruffian, who had 
done his best to murder this witness to the deed. Moreover, 
the Armenian clerk on the roof had seen everything, but had 
buried himself in his bedding, not daring to interfere, 
unarmed as he was, and Mr. Tanfield, having recovered 
from his swoon, gave evidence to the authorities of Shuster 
against the wretch, who was arrested by the Governor and 
thrown into prison. 

Mr. Parry was telegraphed for, and at once went up the 
fifty-six miles on . the steamer Shusan to Shuster, and 
brought Mr. Tanfield down with him, the fanatical mob 
stoning the wounded Feringhee as he was carried from the 
town to the boat. My brother and I felt that we had arrived 
at Bunder Nasseri at a singularly inopportune time ; but as 
there was no caravanserai in the place, and as the Malamir 
was to return almost immediately to Busreh to take Mr. 
Tanfield down to the doctor, there was no help for it, and the 
next morning we were installed in Messrs. Lynch's mansion, 
where we were treated by Mr. and Mrs. Parry with a kind- 



318 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDESADDLE 

ness and hospitality for which both of us will ever feel the 
liveliest gratitude ; especially as circumstances forced us to 
linger many weeks, instead of days, at Bunder Nasseri. 

Sunday was a long, sad day for us all, with the wounded 
man lying bandaged up under his mosquito curtains in the 
entrance hall, the coolest spot in the house. I would have 
given much to have been of use to him in any way, but my 
brother and Mr. Parry did all that could be done, changing 
the dressing of his terrible wounds, and trying to keep him 
cool by means of the freezing mixture, a parting gift to us 
from Captain PifTard of the Lawrence. 

His heroism and pluck were something wonderful, and 
made us prouder than ever of the name of Englishman ! 
Knowing that he was maimed for life — that perhaps his 
health was ruined, and his means of livelihood taken from 
him — he never uttered a complaint, and scarcely a cry or 
groan passed his lips, even during the torture of having his 
bandages changed by amateur hands. 

All our servants helped in the unloading of the Malamir 
so as to get her off the sooner, but as, unfortunately, it was 
the season of Moharrum^ no one could be got for love or 
money to reload the vessel with the customary bales of wool 
from Messrs. Lynch's and Hotz's warehouses, and it was not 
until midnight that, half-loaded up, she steamed away, and 
we all felt a weight lifted from us, as we trusted that in 
fifteen hours she would reach Doctor Scott at Busreh. 

Unfortunately, however, the Malamir stuck for twenty- 
three hours on a sandbank on her course down-stream, and 
on Mr. Tanfield's arrival at Busreh the immediate amputation 
of the whole arm was imperatively necessary. By dint of his 
never-failing courage and a good constitution he finally 
recovered, and on my second visit to Busreh in August I 
found him convalescent and about to embark for England ; 
and I was glad to hear that since then he has again returned 
to his work in the East. That June was the month of 
Moharrum, during which the Mohammedans celebrate the 
sufferings and martyrdom of the revered Hussein and his 
followers ; and on the 22nd, the great day, after sunset, the 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHIVAZ 319 

long, low brick building with its pillared verandah, consti- 
tuting the seat of government in Bunder Nasseri and Ahwaz, 
was crowded with all the notables and seyids in the place. 
Drums were beaten vigorously, and a kind of small, four- 
columned shrine, with a green silk canopy, was carried about, 
and behind this came a coffin (representing Hussein's) draped 
all in black, with a vivid green turban at its head. Fantasti- 
cally attired horsemen, clad in pieces of armour, gave a sort 
of sketchy representation of the Persian Passion Play, and a 
great crowd of onlookers beat their breasts as they gave vent 
to a wild lament. The rhythmic chant, with the thud as they 
struck their bosoms to the measure, had an indescribably 
weird effect, heightened by the glare of torches lighting up 
the scene, illuminating scores of grim faces, their owners 
wrestling with the steps of a dance which appeared to be a 
series of leaps. I should have been sorry for any European 
in the midst of the fanatical throng, working itself up to 
wilder and wilder excesses of religous fury, for the rash in- 
truder would probably have paid for his temerity with his life. 
Our life at Bunder Nasseri at once fell into a well-defined 
groove, settled for us by the climate. We slept on the roof, 
where a cool breeze usually blew all night long, and at 4 a.m. 
we all rose so as to get a ride in the fresh morning air and be 
safely indoors by seven o'clock at latest, as after that hour the 
sun became dangerously powerful. We could not leave the 
house again until after sunset, when the wind, which all day 
long had blown hot as the blast of a furnace, dropped for 
a few hours. We took over three of Mr. Tanfield's horses, so 
were provided with mounts from the first, horse-dealing being 
a somewhat difficult matter at Ahwaz, as just then all the 
horses were required for gathering in and threshing the 
harvest. Mares alone were considered of value here, the 
horses being usually so starved and stunted in growth as 
hardly to be worth buying. The Arab tribes will deprive 
themselves of food to nourish their cherished mares, and 
an Arab would be of no account were he to ride a horse. 
The colts trot along beside their mothers, and should the 
rider urge his steed too fast for the little ones these latter 



3 2o THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

utter plaintive cries of distress, at which their respective 
mothers pull up so sharply as almost to unseat their riders. 

Mares being such valuable property are bought and sold in 
a peculiar way. The whole animal is seldom purchased by 
one man, but three or four buyers have each an interest 
in one or more of her legs. The man to whom the forelegs 
belong has the task of stabling, feeding, and exercising 
the creature, and he will, if possible, buy out the possessors 
of the hind legs by degrees. One of Mr. Tanfield's steeds 
was a very fine mare, and we were told that he had her 
for a considerable time in his possession before he could 
come to terms with the owners of her hind legs ! 

As a rule the best mares, being brought up in the Arab 
family circle, are wonderfully docile and intelligent, and 
their owners are usually reluctant to sell them unless pressed 
for money. The horses about here were only fed once a day, 
in the evening, and then merely with the finely chopped straw, 
or tibbin, this meagre diet, as well as the Arab custom of 
beginning to ride a horse at two years of age, accounting for 
the half-starved appearance of these animals. Every Arab 
apparently possessed a steed, which he usually rode at an 
easy amble ; but occasionally, when he wished to show it off, 
forced into a short rush, pulling it up sharply on its haunches 
when in full career, and turning it round so suddenly as to 
strain its quarters, scarcely a horse in Ahwaz being free 
from this defect. 

The cruel Arab bit made the animals fling their heads into 
the air to avoid its pressure, and it took a good deal of hand- 
ling with our light English bridles to induce our mounts to 
look where they were going. 

The Arabs near Ahwaz were tall, straight, slightly built 
men, holding themselves well, dressed in long, white, or light- 
coloured cotton robes, with the flowing abba of black or brown 
woollen material draped round them, the better class having 
this cloak made of such thin texture as to be almost trans- 
parent. With the characteristic blue and white checked 
kafia streaming from their heads, and the inevitable rifle 
slung at their backs, they made imposing-looking figures. 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 321 

The Arab women by no means equalled the men in looks, 
although it must be remembered that I never saw any of the 
upper class. Those I came across were very squalid and 
dirty-looking, often wearing huge nose-rings, only a few of 
the young ones appearing to think about keeping their 
persons tidy. Their dress was usually a shabby, black, 
loose garment, with a shawl of the same material draped 
over the head, an unsuitable colour and style for such a 
climate, some of them, however, having crimson skirts, which 
looked very picturesque. Perhaps, as they did the greater 
part of the work, they had perforce to leave fine clothes 
to their lords and masters. 

They made their butter in a curious way, hanging a goat- 
skin full of milk from a tripod of sticks and knocking it 
backwards and forwards with their hands ; while they baked 
their bread Persian fashion, in a brick oven, flattening out the 
dough with their hands into big, round cakes, and then sticking 
it up against the sides and roofs of the oven to bake, the 
process only taking about a moment. 

But I feel that I ought to give some idea of what Bunder 
Nasseri and Ahwaz are like, since I hope both are destined to 
become great commercial centres from the opening up of the 
trade of the Karun. 

The former place was not much to look at, but the stir of 
commercial life was in the air. Building was busily going on. 
Messrs. Hotz's agent was building himself a large house, a big 
caravanserai was in course of construction, and private houses 
without end. To supply the quantities of bricks required for 
these works a couple of kilns just outside the scattered village 
were eternally belching forth volumes of black smoke, and as 
fuel was hard to procure, the whole Karun district being 
deforested, the kilns were fed with the golden tibbin piled up 
in heaps beside them — a sight which caused the little European 
colony to lay in their winter stock of fodder quickly, as later 
on it might be impossible to procure it. About a mile further 
up the river lay Ahwaz, a considerable mud village, boasting 
a big fort, a white-domed mosque, and the only two palms in 
the neighbourhood. The town was rich in sugar-cane planta- 



322 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

tions in the days of the Abbasside dynasty, at which period it 
reached the climax of its prosperity ; but, unluckily for itself, 
it revolted from the Kalifs and engaged in a long war in 
which it was finally defeated, and gradually descended to 
its present state of decay. It once belonged to the widely 
spread Nestorian Church ; while to go back to far earlier 
ages, it formed part of the kingdom of Elam often men- 
tioned in the Bible. All about the ancient site of the city 
old mill-stones, broken pottery, and parts of old columns 
are scattered in profusion, while donkeys visited the debris 
daily to be loaded up with the stones of former buildings. 
A long sandstone ridge rises abruptly from the flat, sandy 
desert, stretching for miles behind Bunder Nasseri, and its 
continuation makes the reefs in the Karun below Ahwaz. 
In the time of the Sassanians a great dam had been built 
across the river, making it possible to ascend nearly to 
Shuster ; but as this was broken away, only traces of the old 
masonry being left, it was impossible for the Malamir to 
ascend higher than Bunder Nasseri. Therefore all goods 
intended for Shuster had to be carried along a tramway 
up to Ahwaz, where they were reloaded on board the 
Shushan, a steamer bought from Messrs. Cook and Sons, 
who had had it made for the Nile expedition, and which 
ran to within seven miles of Shuster. 

In the sandstone ridge, to which I have before alluded, 
were a series of caves, looking at a short distance like natural 
perforations of the rock. However, closer inspection re- 
vealed a small platform cut out before each chamber and 
a little flight of steps leading up to the summit of the 
bluff. Probably these chambers were made by fire- 
worshippers to expose their dead ; but we always fancied 
that perhaps they might have been inhabited by long-since 
departed monks in the days when Ahwaz was a Christian 
city: they certainly would have been retreats well away 
from the world and its vanities. 

There are also caves in the ridge which terminates in 
the river and causes the rapids which impede the navi- 
gation of the Karun above Bunder Nasseri. Besides caves 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 323 

there are passages cut right through the friable sandstone 
to allow for the revolving of the wheels of the old Ahwaz 
water-mills. These latter rotated with great speed, a cog- 
wheel turning a spindle, which moved the millstones on the 
rock above and ground the wheat very fast. 

Sharks come up the cool water of the Karun from the 
Persian Gulf during the summer, and are often to be seen 
playing about this dam, attacking every now and again 
some unlucky inhabitant of the place, constant casualties 
occurring near Shuster from this cause. 

I was disappointed at not seeing a single shark during my 
visit, and had to be content with the sight of a huge water- 
snake which we surprised one evening coiled up on the dam, 
and which swam away holding its head high out of the river. 
There was a rumour one day that a lion, killed by Baktiaris 
further up the stream, had floated down, and that its corpse 
was stranded on the dam ; but when we went to inspect the 
defunct king of beasts it was nowhere to be found. 

There was more life on the broad expanse of desert round 
us than we had ever seen in other parts of Persia. Small 
herds of ahu were often espied, and we used to come upon the 
holes dug by the Arabs, who lie in wait to shoot these pretty 
gazelles ; and one morning we beat through the only bit of 
jungle near at hand to put up some wild pig. Flocks of sand- 
grouse and hill-partridges were not uncommon, and now and 
again a pair of silver-grey foxes or a belated jackal would give 
us a good gallop after them, not to speak of solitary wolves or 
hyaenas, while the dog of the party would frantically hunt 
the little jerboas or the big ungainly lizards which waddled 
along like miniature crocodiles. The lovely iridescent bee- 
birds hovered about, somewhat resembling kingfishers when 
perched on bushes, in readiness to dart down on the grass- 
hoppers which form their food. They uttered a sweet ringing 
note, and were most exquisite and not unfriendly creatures, 
while in a back-water of the Karun the pretty white cranes 
with crested heads, much like the egrets of commerce, were 
wont to disport themselves. 

The whole of this district along the banks of the Karun is a 



324 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

great corn-growing country, and stretches of stubble lay on 
either side of the broad, sandy roads, as at the time of our 
visit, towards the end of June, the harvest had all been 
gathered in and threshing was in full swing. The Arabs look 
upon the shamal which blows at this season of the year as a 
providential arrangement to assist them in the winnowing of 
their wheat and barley. They grow the two cereals together 
on the same plots of ground, and when Mr. Parry tried to 
persuade them to sow them separately they answered that 
as Allah made wheat and barley to spring together, it would 
be a sin to try and do otherwise. So Messrs. Lynch must 
perforce have recourse to an ingenious separating machine. 
Outside Ahwaz the corn was piled up into many huge 
circular stacks, and round each heap a drove of six or eight 
donkeys or a bevy of oxen, mules, or horses was driven in an 
endless circle, treading out the corn, as a little at a time was 
thrown on the ground from the central heap, until the whole 
of the straw was reduced to fine flakes of tibbin. 

When the work of treading out the corn was completed, the 
men and boys winnowed it with wooden forks, made of sticks 
neatly fastened on to long poles, and tossed the chaff into the 
air, separating it again and again until the barley and wheat 
lay in long ridges free of straw and dust and ready to be 
loaded in bulk on board the mehalahs waiting off Bunder 
Nasseri. 

Mr. Parry told me that the Arabs were most honourable in 
all commercial transactions. He frequently advanced money 
to them, which they paid off to him at this season in wheat or 
barley ; and he said that a case was hardly known where a 
man refused to honour his bond or promissory note. If, how- 
ever, such an unlikely contingency were to occur, the creditor 
would merely have to mention the matter to the Sheikh of 
the debtor's tribe, and if the defaulter himself could not pay 
his debt the tribe would make up the deficit to save its 
honour. 

Wool is the other great staple industry here, and Messrs. 
Lynch employ many hands in their great warehouse to sort 
and pick this commodity, dividing it into heaps according to 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 325 

the shades. White was the most highly esteemed, then came 
brown, fawn, grey, parti-coloured, and so on, Messrs. Hotz 
having an apparatus to compress the wool into bales for 
export. 

We had only been some two or three days at Bunder 
Nasseri when my brother and Mr. Parry went off in the 
Shushan to Shuster, at which town was the Governor from 
whom my brother was commissioned to extract an indemnity 
for an outrage committed by his soldiers on three Europeans 
at Bunder Nasseri, and also to inquire into the attempted 
murder of Mr. Tanfield and other matters. 

I was left behind with Mrs. Parry and a lady visitor 
from Busreh, as my brother feared the terrible climate 
of Shuster for me, and thought, moreover, that his party 
might probably be attacked by the fanatical Shusteris. We 
were put in charge of the one European in the place, 
a somewhat hot-tempered Dutchman, who came to tell 
me on the day after my brother's departure that he had 
had a quarrel, which appeared to have ended in a regular 
fight, with some Arabs at his office, and that the Persian 
Governor, hearing of it, had written to offer us ladies a 
guard, as he affirmed that we were all in danger of our 
lives. This offer the Dutchman had promptly rejected ; 
but we, however, resolved never to go near the villages 
during our morning rides ; and I felt the wisdom of this, 
as two or three days earlier I had been smartly struck 
between the shoulders with a stone while riding with my 
Dutch friend. Knowing his hasty temper, I had not men- 
tioned the occurrence to him, but the others thought that it 
was probably intended as an insult to my unpopular escort, 
rather than to me, a complete stranger. Mr. Parry's Arab 
clerk and Fakir Mahomet came to me full of excitement, 
both imagining from what they had gathered in the Bazaar 
that the Arabs were greatly enraged against our little 
European colony. 

Very probably the whole thing was much exaggerated ; but 
if anything had been intended against us we were in a 
singularly defenceless position, as nearly all the servants and 



326 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

weapons were with the gentlemen at Shuster. The syce in- 
sisted that I should sleep with my loaded rook- rifle (the only 
fire-arm in the place) by my bedside, and he himself was not 
far off with a huge dagger, though what the two of us could 
have done to defend the house against a well-armed crowd I 
do not know. However, there never arose any need for our 
prowess, for, to our great surprise, on the fifth day after my 
brother's departure the Malamir was sighted, a week 
before its time, and Captain Whyte and Mr. Taylor (Messrs. 
Lynch's agent at Busreh) appeared, giving us at once a 
delightful sense of security. The gentlemen had heard a 
report of the quarrel with the Arabs, to which I have before 
alluded, and considering that we were in an unsafe position 
they had most kindly come up to look after us, and I think 
that we realised, now that all cause for alarm was over, that 
our nerves had been rather on the stretch during the past few 
days, and we were proportionately grateful to the new arrivals. 

The heat at Bunder Nasseri grew more severe as the days 
went on, and we suffered considerable extremes of tempera- 
ture. For example, the nights were always cool with a fresh 
breeze and the thermometer at 75° making one glad of warm 
wraps ; but only a short time after the sun had risen it was 
95 , and in our coolest sitting-room varied from ioo° to 105 . 
By ten o'clock in the morning 11 2° was no uncommon 
temperature, and our maximum indoors was 11 8°. The 
shamdl kept pace with the heat, being merely a pleasant 
breeze during the morning, and rising to a veritable burning 
gale during the afternoon and evening, gradually dropping 
down between eight and ten o'clock to a soft wind soothing 
us during the night. 

What the temperature rose to in my peculiarly stuffy bed- 
room I never cared to inquire, as I spent the smallest possible 
fraction of my time in what was a veritable Turkish bath. It 
was a haunt of mosquitoes and sandflies of the most virulent 
and persistent order, not to speak of cockroaches, crickets, 
and the friendly little house-lizards, which both here and at 
Busreh lived in all the rooms, performing the useful offices 
allotted to spiders in England, although these latter were not 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 327 

lacking at Bunder Nasseri. We had not very many scor- 
pions, luckily, but I occasionally saw small yellow or black 
ones running about like miniature lobsters, and the big buff 
tarantulas lurked in obscure corners of the rooms. The most 
alarming insects in this part of the world were huge centi- 
pedes, some six inches long. They were not unlike gigantic 
earwigs, having forked tails and glistening scales, while the 
short, thick legs on either side their bodies were furnished with 
minute suckers. It is dangerous to try and knock off a 
centipede (the Persian name is Pa-i-hazar — Thousand-footed 
One) if it is crawling over the naked skin, for these poison- 
ous suckers will immediately cling to the flesh and inflict a 
series of small, festering wounds. We caught some of these 
creatures while at Ahwaz, and it was always a comfort to feel 
that I was fairly secure from them at night on the roof, for 
they would have added a real horror to life had they pursued 
their peregrinations to my eyrie ! 

Even in this comparatively healthy part of the world fever 
was not wanting. Mrs. Parry's visitor and the latter's baby- 
boy had attacks every other day ; and, although the baby 
Parry fortunately escaped, yet his negress nurse, a Bagdadi 
Christian, who wore long plaits of false hair tied on to her 
woolly locks, was constantly ill. 

The Malamir stayed during a week up at Bunder 
Nasseri, and then had to return, leaving everything quite 
quiet, and on July nth our servants came rushing in to say 
that the Shushan was sighted, and that my brother and 
Mr. Parry would be with us in a couple of hours ; so we sent 
horses to meet them, and awaited their arrival in a state of 
high expectancy. 

At last they appeared, hardly able to stagger into the 
house, both so wasted away from the effects of the malignant 
Shusteri fever that I should hardly have known them for the 
same men who had left us in such health and spirits only a 
fortnight before. They had been obliged to live in the midst 
of what Layard describes as " the most pestilent town in 
Persia," and had been forced to retire to the sardabs, or under- 
ground chambers, vault-like and ill-ventilated places, in order 



328 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

to escape the intense heat, which rose inside the house to 1 1 8° 
at 8 a.m., and to 120 and even 128 during the course of 
the day. 

They had had a narrow escape of being attacked by Arabs 
when coming down-stream on the Shushan the little vessel 
having laid up for the /light at Shillalia, near several great 
mehalahs loaded with grain. A band of Arabs, returning 
with the spoil of a village that they had just sacked, fired 
several shots at the vessels from the steep river-bank, but 
they were not suffered to pass unchallenged, for the deck- 
passengers of the Shushan all turned out to be well armed, 
and it was an affair of moments to barricade the decks 
of the steamer with bales of wool. Nor were the white- 
robed Arabs in charge of the mehalahs behindhand. They 
screwed up their courage by chanting a wild song of battle, 
and, breaking into a weird dance, brandished their weapons 
to such good effect that the Arabs on the warpath took their 
departure, evidently considering discretion the better part 
of valour. 

And now we hoped that orders would come for us to start 
on our longed-for journey through the Baktiari hills to 
Isfahan and then Tehran. My brother had been entirely 
successful in obtaining the indemnity from the Persian 
Governor of Shuster, and Mr. Taylor, Captain Adey, and 
another Englishmen were to receive compensation for their 
wounds ; while Saduk, the would-be murderer, had been sent 
in chains to Tehran for justice, and the wheat embargo had 
not been levied that season. I had packed all our boxes of 
stores, and got our camp equipage into apple-pie order, so 
that, if transport were forthcoming, we could be off at an 
hour's notice. 

But no instructions came, and after some days a telegram 
arrived to say that we must prepare to stay on at Bunder 
Nasseri for several weeks longer. This would not have 
mattered if my brother could have regained his health ; but as 
the hot days dragged wearily by both the men appeared to 
get worse instead of better, and Mrs. Parry and I were at our 
wits' end how to provide food that they could eat. Ahwaz 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 329 

was even worse off than Kerman in the way of supplies. 
There was the usual diet of mutton and fowl ; but it was 
varied with no vegetables save rice and onions. Not a 
potato, not even a marrow or an egg-plant were to be pro- 
cured in Ahwaz, and, as there was no fruit of any kind, it 
was impossible to cater for invalids. 

We had some tins of bovril in our stores, which by no 
means abounded in luxuries, and fortunately had plenty of 
condensed Swiss milk, as that and eggs were both hard to 
obtain ; and though the Karun River flowed only a few yards 
from our doors and was swarming with fish, no money could 
induce the lazy Arabs to catch what would have been most 
appetising food. 

At first the men tried to take short rides in the cool of the 
morning ; and I remember how longingly I used to gaze at 
the far-away snowy peaks of the Baktiari hills, and wonder 
when orders would come for us to leave what was a sort of 
purgatory. Fortunately, I myself was in the best of health, as 
indeed I had been throughout my entire journeys, never 
having had any illness since the day T left England, and I 
was assured that the prickly heat, which often made me feel 
as if I were wearing garments woven of nettles, was really a 
blessing in disguise, as any one having it badly was seldom 
visited with fever. 

By the beginning of August over three weeks had elapsed 
since the return of my brother and Mr. Parry from Shuster, 
and it really seemed as if both of them might possibly die of 
starvation. They refused all food save an occasional cup of 
bovril or an egg-flip, and it was most distressing to see the 
state of weakness to which they had been reduced. Natu- 
rally I became terribly anxious, and at last persuaded my 
brother to go down to Busreh to see the doctor, both of us 
feeling that in all probability the change would completely 
set him up again. A native boat was leaving early in August, 
and as he expected to be back again at his post in a few 
days' time it was arranged that I should stay on with the 
Parrys during his absence ; and I was inexpressibly relieved 
to get a telegram from him on the next day saying that he 



330 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

had had a successful voyage and was already somewhat 
stronger. My spirits went up with a rush, and it really 
seemed as if things were going to take a turn, as Mr. Parry 
appeared to be a trifle better, and the negress nurse, who was 
in a perpetual state of collapse, again resumed her duties. 
But a couple of days later I received a telegram telling me to 
come down to Busreh in the Malamir, and that particulars 
would be sent by that vessel, which was due in twenty-four 
hours' time. 

Of course I feared the worst at once, and the Parrys, 
kind as they were, could give me no real hope in the face of 
such a telegram. I hardly know how I got through the time 
before the Malamir arrived, and with it the coveted letters, 
which took an almost overwhelming weight off my mind, 
as they and Captain Adey's report convinced me that my 
brother was, if anything, better than when he left Bunder 
Nasseri. 

The steamer had brought back a party of Arabs, who had 
made the pilgrimage to Mecca, but had returned leaving the 
bones of one of their number behind them in the sacred city. 
A body of their fellow-countrymen dashed up to welcome the 
new-comers, their burnooses flying in the wind as they pulled 
their steeds sharply back on their haunches, and among them 
were the brother and other relatives of the deceased. As soon 
as they heard the sad news they all dismounted, and broke into 
wild lamentations, calling on the dead man by name. " Taki 
Abu ! " they cried in despairing accents, throwing dust on 
their heads and flinging their long abbas over their faces to 
cover them. " Ya, Taki Abu ! Ya, Taki Abu ! " they yelled 
between heartrending sobs, waving their long sticks in the 
air in a despairing way. It was a scene of wild, uncontrolled 
grief, the brother appearing quite inconsolable, and I could 
indeed feel for these poor men to whom the Malamir had 
brought such evil tidings. At last the whole party remounted 
and went off slowly, in a very different manner to that of 
their arrival, and later on the women appeared on the landing- 
place in front of the Parrys' house and gave way to bitter 
lamentations. 



THE KARUN RIVER AND AHWAZ 331 

Before daybreak the next morning I went on board the 
Malamir, which was to carry me away from Bunder Nasseri. 
Although still expecting that my brother and I would return 
there before long, I could not leave the Parrys without much 
regret, as they had shown us a true friendship, which had but 
grown the stronger during the trying weeks of illness and 
depression that we had spent together. In spite of her anxiety 
about her husband, in spite of many a household worry and 
occasional attacks of fever, Mrs. Parry had never failed in an 
unceasing kindness to me, and our common trouble had drawn 
us so closely together that we parted like old and tried friends. 

It was with very different feelings that I approached 
Busreh for the second time. All the hope and expectancy of 
my first visit were now succeeded by an anxiety and a 
despondency against which I had to struggle until the 
longed-for day arrived when we could quit that enervating 
city of Turkish Arabia. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 

IT seemed to me throughout our stay in the East that we 
met with more real kindness and more genuine hospi- 
tality than we had experienced during the whole course of 
our lives up to that date, and at Busreh there was no excep- 
tion to the rule, for it was mainly owing to Captain Whyte's 
unceasing care and forethought that my brother's life was 
spared. He had been attacked with pleurisy — no uncommon 
sequel to the Shusteri fever — and his case was a serious one, 
requiring great care. In spite of the comforts of the Con- 
sulate, in spite of punkahs by day and night, iced drinks and 
appetising food, it seemed impossible for him to regain his 
strength in a climate resembling nothing so much as a 
Turkish bath, and in his condition he could not have borne 
the journey down the Gulf to the comparative coolness of 
Karachi. 

Of course it was entirely owing to my state of mind, but 
all the glamour and beauty of Busreh seemed turned to a 
sinister and hateful loveliness, and the sunshine I had always 
loved so well hitherto seemed a baleful, death-dealing in- 
fluence. Our days dragged by slowly in a wearisome routine. 
We slept at night on the roof, under matting shelters to keep 
off the deadly dew, and with the punkahs creaking backwards 
and forwards ; and had to descend to our suffocatingly hot 
rooms below at 5.30 a.m. at latest, the sun being too powerful 
by then to render it safe to remain longer in the com- 
paratively fresh air above. So perforce we must leave the 
graceful palms, ever waving their fans against a turquoise sky, 



FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 333 

and reflecting their carved trunks on the broad bosom of the 
mighty Shat-el-Arab, and begin a long day indoors, the lazy 
hours of "sweet do nothing," which is a state of existence 
by no means sweet to me, beguiled by a little reading, a 
little writing, and a great deal of sleeping, all done under 
punkahs. 

After lunch we invariably lay on couches in a dark room 
partly underground, and it was not until 6 p.m. that we 
could venture out of the house to watch the more energetic 
of the English play a game of tennis in the short time 
before sunset, or to be rowed about in the inevitable bellum y 
lying on the cushions at the bottom, and watching the sun as 
it set, flooding the sky with gold and lending wonderful tints 
of green to the palms, which they threw back in turn against 
their soft blue background ; while not a ripple would disturb 
the calm of the amethyst-coloured water. 

The entire Jack of exercise told on me a good deal, 
although it was not possible to take much in a place 
where one was never cool for a moment, save immediately 
under a punkah, and where three baths a day seemed to 
exhaust rather than refresh one. As, however, I never 
succumbed to the effects of the climate, I feel that I have 
no legitimate cause of complaint against it. 

I have alluded in a previous chapter to the many miles of 
palm-groves on the banks of the Shat-el-Arab, which practi- 
cally supply dates to the world. The fruit was nearly ready 
for gathering, and hung on the long stalks in all shades 
of gold and red. It was too luscious at this stage to be eaten 
in any quantity, reminding me of nothing so much as of 
masses of compressed honey, and melting into a sweet syrup 
in the mouth ; but a spell of hot weather in September, 
called the khorma puz (cooking of the date), would ripen it 
completely. 

Date-boxes were coming up to Busreh by every vessel, 
unwieldy " ditchers " and " tanks " bringing big cargoes from 
Norway, the tops, bottoms, and sides done up in uniform- 
sized bundles, to be nailed together on arrival. A knocking 
and hammering resounded from the wharves in front of the 



334 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

houses belonging to the different firms, and everything was 
being made ready for the date harvest, which would be picked 
and packed about the middle of September. There are many 
different varieties and qualities of fruit ; but the crop of one 
of the best trees is worth about twelve rupees. 

The merchants ply up and down the Shat-el-Arab, or 
encamp in the date-gardens, as they are called, to super- 
intend the harvesting of the fruit. The long stalks are 
broken off the trees by their Arab proprietors, and the dates 
shaken into big receptacles, which are carried into matting 
shelters to be properly packed in neat wooden boxes. The 
Arab children are the best and quickest packers, and the 
women come next. Some of the old folk are very slow and 
stupid, but it would not do to turn them off, for they would 
most certainly take their whole clan with them if their feelings 
were ruffled by dismissal. 

Some of the dates are pressed in a mass into bags of 
palm-leaf matting, and all are sent in steamers direct to 
England and America, where they are used for making 
sweetmeats or vinegar, and for purposes of distilling, while 
vast quantities are consumed in the mining districts of 
England. 

August 31st was the anniversary of the Sultan's accession, 
and the whole of the river front of Busreh was charmingly 
illuminated with hundreds of tiny oil-lamps in honour of the 
event. The Turkish Hospital across the water was one mass 
of lights, the dwellings of the Governor and the Admiral 
were very gay, while the Turkish men-of-war seemed all 
flags and lamps, and the National Anthem sounded at 
intervals. As the Consulate and the houses of the British 
merchants were likewise decorated, the effect from the river 
was exceedingly pretty. 

At last kind Doctor Scott gave us leave to attempt the 
voyage down the Gulf to Karachi, and we decided to make 
our way back to Tehran, via Bombay, Alexandria, and the 
Black and Caspian Seas, instead of the delightful journey 
across the Baktiari country to which we had both looked 
forward so much. I had plenty to do in packing and 



FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 335 

arranging, for Sultan Sukru was to take our horses and the 
greater part of our baggage overland from Ahwaz to Tehran, 
and we were to travel by this long sea route, as lightly- 
burdened as possible. 

On September 4th we left Busreh in the British India 
steamer Assyria, and turned our backs joyfully on a part 
of the world where we had passed some of the worst months 
of our existence, although the great kindness we had ex- 
perienced had done so much to mitigate our troubles. 

It is all very well for travellers passing through a country 
to praise its climate, when they have probably timed their 
stay during the best season of the year. 

Busreh is a most pleasant place in the winter, the air being 
fresh and almost cold, forcing the residents to don their 
tweeds, and giving them energy for golf, cricket, shooting, 
and long rides across the desert. But, as I have tried to 
show, it is very different during the summer months, and the 
exhausting nature of the climate is such that, in case of 
illness, it is most difficult to regain strength. 

It seemed, however, at first as if we had exchanged Scylla 
for Charybdis, for on our steamer punkahs were conspicuous 
by their absence, and we were much less sheltered from the 
heat in the vessel than on shore ; and as there was no ice, 
all our drinks were quite warm, although the bottles were 
kept in a huge porous jar filled with water, which continually 
oozed from its sides. 

During the whole day we lay at anchor in the sweltering 
heat, which penetrated through the deck awnings, and it 
was only at night that we went on, and felt an occasional 
breeze as we slept on deck. 

To my great relief, my brother began to mend the moment 
we had passed the bar at Fao, and were out on the real sea 
again, and, in spite of the lack of fruit or vegetables, he got 
better daily. 

A little Arab boy, with his tutor and servants, was about 
the only first-class passenger beside ourselves, all of them 
dressed in the thinnest of white cotton shirts, drawers, and 
caps. The boy was the son of a rich Arab chief living near 



336 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

Busreh, who was sending his child to be educated in an 
English school at Bombay. The would-be pupil had two 
very small boxes and a roll of carpets and bedding for all 
his luggage, and spent his days in sleeping, eating, and 
chattering. The servants brought a huge pillau of fowls, 
rice, and saffron on a large metal tray twice daily, and 
round the mat on which the food was laid the small chief- 
tain, his tutor and servants would gather happily, and all 
feed together, using their fingers most skilfully, while they 
ate quantities of hard, unripe dates and pomegranates with 
much relish in between meal-times. 

When we lay off Bahrein a number of tall, well-dressed 
Arabs came on board, holding amber rosaries in their hands, 
to pay their respects to the young chief, who was stuck upon 
a small camp-stool by his tutor, this latter squatting humbly 
behind his charge, and fanning him assiduously. The hand- 
some visitors salaamed the small boy with much ceremony, 
some of them kissing him on the shoulder, and it certainly 
was a case of " uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," 
for the poor child soon grew excessively tired of his novel 
position, and his back was bent almost double as he curled 
himself up on the perch, from which he longed, but did not 
dare, to descend. 

A couple of days after this episode I was amused at seeing 
the chieflet follow my example of tramping the deck. He 
began to shuffle up and down, escorted by a minute and 
dirty Arab servant, who kept at a respectful distance 
behind him, and my example proved so contagious that 
even the old tutor took to promenading two or three times 
a day, a marvellous sight in the East, where to take 
exercise for its own sake is looked upon as a species of 
lunacy. 

We lived on deck all day long, and slept on it at night, 
our cabins being almost unbearable on account of the terrible 
heat, the sea-water bath being perfectly hot, and therefore 
by no means as refreshing as we had shoped. We had 
about a hundred horses on board being taken to Bombay 
for sale, and when we lay at anchor their movements 



FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 337 

caused a most unpleasant rolling of the vessel, something 
like the heaving of a ground swell. I felt much for the poor 
animals, which were only watered twice daily, and suffered 
greatly from the heat, two or three of them succumbing to 
the hardships of a voyage lasting fourteen days. We passed 
Bushire, where cargoes of opium were put on board, and had 
a suffocatingly hot two days off Bahrein, our captain having 
lively discussions with various occupants of the heavy native 
boats, as he refused to take any more passengers on board, 
having barely sufficient water for the horses as it was. There 
was not a great deal of life on the water. An occasional 
flotilla of medusae ; numerous large jelly-fish ; a shoal of 
minnow-like fry ; the beautiful guard-fish, with bright blue 
tails and long, orange mouths ; a hawk hovering round the 
rigging, and perching on the bulwarks ; a huge serpent 
swimming high on the sapphire sea ; and the crowd of 
native boats bringing cargoes of the inevitable dates, un- 
savoury loads of sharks' fins {chow chow\ assafcetida, skins, 
dried fish, and masses of rosebuds, these latter to be converted 
at Bombay into the celebrated attar of roses so characteristic 
of the East. 

The copper-skinned Arab rowers chanted weird refrains 
as they bent to their curious oars, long poles terminating in 
oblong pieces of board or round discs of wood, while they 
shouted "aldn!" as the signal to pull off to shore, and in- 
dulged in a never-ceasing quarrelling and yelling while round 
our vessel. 

On September 10th we made our way along the coast of 
Oman, the sea of that name being immortalised by Moore 
as the scene of his poem, the " Fire-worshippers." A long 
line of dreary hills rising sheer frorn the shore, and only 
broken here and there by small inlets, did not give a very 
cheerful impression of that " Araby " so sung by poets who 
have never visited the country. However, it is a mistake to 
expect too much in the East, and I was quite charmed when 
at midday we entered the picturesque harbour of Muscat. 

The small bay is almost landlocked, high cliffs rising to 
right and left of it, on one of which is painted the names of 

23 



338 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

the different vessels that have anchored in front of the town. 
Prominent among them was the Sphinx, and the white gun- 
boat herself was lying close at hand. 

We had travelled from Bunder Abbas, the last port at 
which we had stopped, with Captain Bevill, H.B.M's. Consul 
at Muscat, but the heat was too great to allow us to accept 
his kind offer to pass the day on shore at the Consulate, and 
we had to content ourselves with gazing at the little town, 
crowded in a very limited space at the foot of barren hills, 
on the spurs of which stand two mouldering old Portuguese 
forts overlooking the barrack-like, whitewashed palace of 
the Sultan and the well-built Consulate. A gap in the hills 
gives a glimpse of more mountains, and there is nowhere a 
tree or a blade of grass to be seen. 

In spite of this, Muscat exports quantities of dates from 
the interior, and as soon as the Assyria steamed into the 
harbour and fired off her gun, which echoed and reverberated 
from the cliffs again and again, a crowd of lighters laden 
with boxes and bags of dates pushed off from the shore, 
and we were surrounded by a screaming, wrangling swarm 
of bronzed Arabs. Small boys made their appearance in 
the roughest of " dug-outs," and prepared to dive for coppers, 
which, however, they did not appear particularly expert at 
retrieving, probably from lack of practice. Captain Bevill 
told us that during the summer Muscat was never cool 
either by night or day, for the rocks rising close behind the 
town absorbed the heat during the hours of sunshine, only 
to give it out again after sunset, making the place almost 
unfit for Europeans to live in. He said that a certain 
amount of pearl-fishing went on on this coast, and as the 
oyster-shells here were all " mother of pearl," they were 
valuable in themselves, and were exported in great quantities 
for making buttons. 

I was especially interested in this little Arabian town as 
being the scene of the last labours of Bishop French, of 
Lahore. After between thirty and forty years of missionary 
labour this man of marvellous energy left his bishopric at 
the age of sixty-six to offer Christianity .to fanatical Muscat 



FROM BUSREH TO TEHRAN AGAIN 339 

He denied himself every comfort, and gaining the respect of 
the Arabs, partly by his asceticism, was permitted to preach 
in their mosques ; but the terrible fever of the country seized 
upon him before long, and when he persisted, contrary to 
advice, in making a journey into the interior, he succumbed 
to it, and was carried back to Muscat to die in May, 1891, 
after only a few months spent in this stronghold of 
Moslemism. 

When we left the calm waters of the harbour we found 
ourselves in the swell of the monsoon outside ; but although 
I am one of the worst of sailors, and my brother by no 
means at home on a rough sea, yet after dosing ourselves 
with Yanatas, a cure for seasickness which has spared me 
many hours of suffering, we got through the two days of 
tossing and reached Karachi again, where we found it, com- 
paratively speaking, quite cold after the intense heat we had 
experienced, and drove to our hotel along sandy wastes, 
with a dust-storm in full swing. A visit to the Karachi 
Zoo in its lovely gardens, and dinner with the hospitable 
head of the Persian Telegraph Department, Mr. Sealey, and 
his charming wife, helped us to pass the day pleasantly, and 
we returned to our vessel to undergo a stiff gale for two 
days before we finally anchored in the beautiful harbour of 
Bombay, and felt that our troubles were practically over. 

After a sad parting with our faithful syce, Fakir Mahomet, 
we embarked on the P. and O. Peninsular to Ismailia, 
intending to make our way thence via Alexandria to 
Constantinople, and so back again to Tehran. However, 
we heard at Aden that cholera had broken out in Egypt, 
and being by no means desirous of spending weeks in 
quarantine, we decided to go on to Brindisi, reaching it on 
October 1st It seemed hard to be so near home, and yet 
to be turning Eastward Ho ! again. However, so it was, and 
we traversed the Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas, 
and I landed for the second time at Enzeli. So much had 
happened since I left England some two years before, full 
of the joy of travel, that I could hardly realise that so short 
a time had elapsed, feeling that at least a decade had passed 
over my head. 



340 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

The Persian sun shone out magnificently, and did not 
seem to me to be the same sinister luminary that we had 
dreaded at Ahwaz and Busreh, but a beneficent and life- 
giving power. I rejoiced in its genial warmth, and realised 
with satisfaction that I was once more in my beloved land 
of the " Lion and the Sun." 

It was delightful to be on horseback again when we left 
Resht, even the sorry chapar steeds being a pleasure to 
mount after our long imprisonment on board ship. Our 
journey up to the capital was one charming picnic. The 
weather was perfect, and we left all the commissariat arrange- 
ments entirely in the hands of that phcenix among Persians, 
a good and honest servant. 

At Enzeli we had met our friend Mrs. Rabino, of the 
Imperial Bank of Persia, on her way to England, and as 
our own servants had not yet arrived at Tehran from Ahwaz, 
she most kindly offered us the services of her two men 
with some of her camp equipment. I feel that I have said 
a good deal in disparagement of Persian servants in this 
book, and Haji would indeed go far to redeem the evil 
character I have assigned to them, if he had not taken the 
trouble of assuring us at an early opportunity that he was a 
Turk, and did not wish us to confound him with the lazy 
Persians, for whom he had the most profound contempt ! 

Our eight days' journey up to Tehran in the loveliest of 
weather was too devoid of incident to merit description, and 
it was hard to believe that the road could present the difficul- 
ties that we experienced two or three months later on. 

We reached the British Legation at the end of October, 
to be treated again by the Durands with a kindness that 
made us look upon the capital of Persia as a second home, 
and which probably had far more to do with my rose- 
coloured impressions of the East, than I at all realised at 
the time. 



CHAPTER XXV 

TEHRAN REVISITED, AND THE JOURNEY HOME TO 
ENGLAND 

DURING the first weeks of November the capital of 
Persia looked perhaps at its best, for the numerous 
gardens on its outskirts were brilliant with autumn tints, 
while the Elburz Range looked inexpressibly lovely with 
its newly fallen snowy covering. Our first act was to pay a 
round of calls and look up all our old friends again, who were 
much interested in hearing of our doings since our departure, 
Baluchistan seeming almost as inaccessible a land to dwellers 
in Tehran as it is to us in England. My afternoons were 
spent in riding out to the different gardens ; coursing an 
occasional hare on the barren plains outside Tehran ; looking 
on at the tent-pegging and the polo, which latter sport my 
brother introduced, or in joining in the paper-chases, a form 
of amusement which appealed strongly to me. 

One afternoon we rode in a party to the ruins of the 
ancient city of Rhe, or Rhages, the old Parthian capital, close 
to the town of Abdul Azim, in the blue-domed shrine of 
which the late Shah was assassinated. 

Rhages is supposed by some to be identical with the place 
visited by Tobit, who placed the talents in the care of Gabael, 
one of its citizens, and later on sent his son Tobias, in company 
with the angel Raphael, to reclaim this money. Its ruined 
fortress crowned a picturesque spur of the range of low hills, 
beneath which a confused mass of mounds marked the site 
of the former city, where we found fragments of dark red 

341 



342 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

terra-cotta painted in black designs, bearing a strong resem- 
blance to Greek or Etruscan vases. 

Near at hand the warm spring of " Chesm-i-Ali " gushed, 
out at the foot of a wall of rock on which was a sculpture of 
Fath Ali Shah and his sons, tradition reporting that the 
monarch had ordered this glorification of himself and his 
offspring to be chiselled upon a bas-relief of great antiquity. 

Beyond the ruins, and further in among the hills, lay the 
dakme of the Parsees, a large, low, unimposing-looking tower, 
and a bare, gravelly desert separated us from the gardens 
round Tehran. 

On another occasion we made an expedition to Karizek, 
the Belgian minister having invited us to come over to 
inspect the beetroot sugar factory, which was being started 
there with a view to underselling the Russian article. It 
was a bleak, dusty ride of some twelve miles, and our horses 
were put up at the blue-plastered Mehman Khana, where I 
well remember the cold night we spent on our departure 
'from Tehran nearly two years before, when there were no 
signs of the factory or of the house to which Baron Bayens 
presently conducted us, to thaw ourselves. 

After lunch we were conducted round the factory, and 
were astonished to see such machinery in Persia, and to 
observe that the whole place was lit with electric light. 

As the buildings were not yet completed operations would 
not commence for another month, but in the yards outside 
there were mounds and hills of yellow beetroot (it being far 
sweeter than the red variety), and we were told that 20,000,000 
kilos of sugar could be made in three months, but that the 
country did not as yet produce enough of the necessary 
vegetable to keep the machinery fully employed. 

Heaps of chalk were a conspicuous feature of the estab- 
lishment, and it was explained to us that this substance 
was used to precipitate the sugar, which it was hoped would 
be both sweeter and cheaper than the Russian article, which 
never melts in the tea. 



THE CHILDREN OF H.H. THE FARMAN FARMA. 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 343 

The Farman Farma had come to Tehran on the accession 
of the present Shah, to whom, as I have mentioned before, 
he stood in the relationship of both son-in-law and brother- 
in-law. It was very pleasant to meet him again, and I also 
made the acquaintance of the Nasir-ul-Mulk, who was sent 
later on by his sovereign to England in the capacity of 
Special Envoy, when he renewed his friendship with us. 

The Farman Farma sent his sons two or three times to 
call at the Legation, and they made a quaint little party on 
the occasion of their first visit when I came across them in 
the garden. Their elderly French governess appeared in the 
midst of a troop of five small boys, all dressed like little men 
in long, full-skirted uniforms and black astrachan kolaks, 
while two dirty servants walked behind. When they saw us 
the domestics pushed forward Firuz, the eldest princelet, to 
shake hands, volubly running off all his titles with those 
of his two brothers and the two cousins accompanying 
them. 

Lady Durand asked the party into the drawing-room, and 
Firuz, bold and intelligent, wandered about, his eyes glittering 
as he pounced upon various weapons lying on the tables, 
while Madame made the others recite pieces of French 
poetry, during which we heard Abbas, the second boy, 
making inquiries as to when tea and cakes were coming ! 

Lady Durand took me to call one afternoon on the 
Farman Farma's wife, who is the daughter of the present 
Shah. 

She was young and good-looking, but very stout, attired 
in a gorgeous red plush robe with deep gold embroidery, and 
wearing a quantity of diamonds, pearls, and emeralds, the 
latter stones being of great size, but uncut. She understood 
a little French, but was evidently ill at ease, and the French 
governess did the honours, displaying the accomplishments 
of the four sons, all of whom were most intelligent. 

After we had partaken of tea, cakes, fruits and sweetmeats, 
the Farman Farma made his appearance, inquired if we 
admired his wife, and then proposed that he should show us 
his own apartments, sending a woman-servant on in front 



344 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

to tell all the men-servants to get out of the way, as the 
Princess was coming. 

The rooms were quite European, crowded with rich 
furniture, the walls hung with carpets and many dozens of 
china plates, and the Princess wandered about much in- 
terested, as this was her first visit to her husband's rooms. 
When I got her alone and began to talk to her in Persian 
she became a different being, opening out at once, and telling 
me how often the Prince had spoken of me and my doings 
at Kerman, and from what she said he had evidently 
given her a very highly coloured account of my powers of 
riding, walking, and shooting. 

On November 20th the Sadr Azem, the Prime Minister, 
who had practically been the ruler of the kingdom during 
the reign of the late Shah, gave a great banquet to all the 
European gentlemen of Tehran at his garden-house, very 
near the British Legation, and only four days later the news 
came that he had fallen from power. In the East when a 
man loses his post, as a rule all his possessions are con- 
fiscated, and if he escapes with his life he may consider 
himself fortunate. The Sadr Azem, however, was treated 
with unusual consideration, owing mainly to strong British 
and Russian influence, but he was forced to retreat to the 
sacred city of Koom, where he had a house in bast, the 
quarter which is sanctuary. 

He had brought his misfortunes on himself by his 
arrogance and overweening pride. Instead of conciliating 
the party of the new Shah, he concentrated all power and 
office in his own person, although he had been warned of 
the danger of this course, the fate of Bismarck having been 
pointed out to him as a lesson that no man is really 
necessary to a kingdom. But nevertheless the Sadr Azem 
went to his fate, sulking in his anderoon if anything were 
not to his taste, so that all business came to a complete 
standstill until he was pacified. 

When at last the blow fell the ill-fated Minister was told 
that he might stay in the capital until the morrow, but that 
his Majesty would be better pleased were he to leave on the 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 345 

day of his downfall. The deposed Vizier wrote a dignified 
reply to his monarch, in which he professed thankfulness at 
being relieved of the cares of office, and begged the Shah to 
grant him his life and the lives of those belonging to him, 
adding that he would be satisfied if his Majesty would treat 
him with as much forbearance as he had shown to the 
enemies of the State. 

The Sadr Azem, with all his faults as an obstructionist, 
which barred any prospect of reform or good Government 
in his country, was good to the poor, and the lower classes 
generally had a high opinion of his capacity. As one of the 
Legation servants put it, " Now there will be an end of 
Persia and the Persians, for the members of the new Govern- 
ment will quarrel among themselves, and we cannot tell 
what will happen." 

The present Shah, moreover, owed something to his Vizier 
for his clever management of events on the death of the late 
Shah. 

When Nasr-ed-Deen fell mortally wounded in the mosque 
at Shah Abdul Azim, his Prime Minister ordered him to 
be carried to the carriage in waiting, propped up the corpse 
and drove beside it into Tehran, the guards surrounding the 
carriage as usual. As soon as he got the Shah into the 
palace he gave out that he was merely wounded, sent in 
haste for the European doctors as a blind to the populace, 
and for the European ministers, who telegraphed to the 
Vali Ahd (Crown Prince) at Tabriz, directing the Consuls 
representing the different nations there to enthrone the new 
Shah without delay. The Imperial Bank of Persia advanced 
large sums of money to the Sadr Azem with which to pay 
various regiments, and the army once in his power the 
Vizier did not fear the Naib-es-Sultaneh, the Commander- 
in-Chief (the third son of the late Shah), who, had he been 
a strong man, would most assuredly have taken advantage 
of his position and made a bid for the crown. 

It is pleasant to know that before the Sadr Azem left 
Tehran he expressed much gratitude to the representatives 
of the European Governments who stood by him in his 



346 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

misfortunes, when his own countrymen, many of whom had 
received great benefits from him, had completely deserted 
him. 

Contrary to public expectation, his fall occasioned no stir 
of any kind, and he reached Koom in safety, where he awaits 
the next turn of the wheel of Fortune. 

Towards the end of N ovember the rainy season began, and 
we had a good deal (for Persia) of wet weather, the roads 
being terribly muddy in consequence. The winter gaieties 
were commencing, and it was somewhat risky work going 
out to dinners and dances in bad weather, as, even if the 
carriage came when ordered, it often happened that the 
driver had disobeyed the regulations in the Koran relating 
to the use of alcohol, and I recollect that on one occasion we 
were upset twice before our Jehu had even left the garden of 
the French Legation, and not wishing to risk a third mishap, 
we all walked home in the mire. 

As most of the Legations were in the so-called Rue des 
Ambassadeurs, we used often to walk in our goloshes to and 
from parties when the frosty weather began, and were always 
preceded by servants carrying big lanterns made of waxed 
linen, with elaborately engraved iron or steel tops and 
bottoms. 

The size of these f anuses was fixed by inexorable laws of 
etiquette. For example, if the Minister went out on foot 
after dark he would be preceded by two enormous lanterns, 
the charge' d'affaires having only one, considerably smaller; 
while the second and third secretaries had quite diminutive 
ones, the former gentleman being permitted a lantern 
slightly larger than that carried in front of his colleague. 
As the servants do all the buying in Persia it is they who 
arrange such matters. 

During our visit to Tehran the late Shah was still 
unburied, and lay in state in the takieh, or theatre, where the 
Persian Passion Play is performed during the month of 
Moharruniy as a religious ceremony. 

His son had ordered an enormous sarcophagus of marble 
to be made at Yezd for the remains of the deceased monarch, 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 347 

and Mr. Williams, a gentleman travelling through Persia, 
who arrived at Tehran early in December on his way home, 
told us that he had seen the great block of marble in the 
neighbourhood of Kashan, and that it was being dragged 
along laboriously by a numerous company of men. As 
these latter were paid by the day, and not by the job, their 
rate of progression was exceedingly slow, and Mr. Williams 
thought that there was not much likelihood of his Majesty 
being laid to rest until the spring, in which supposition he 
was correct, as the interment did not take place until the 
middle of the following April. 

Just before Christmas I made an expedition to the Bazaars 
to buy various presents, as it was arranged that my brother 
and I were not to leave Tehran until the end of January. 
Dr. Rosen, of the German Legation, who was kind enough 
to act as guide to our party on this occasion, took us first to 
a small booth in which an old Jew sat like a spider among 
carpets and silks, and displayed to us his treasures of coins, 
signets, and cylinders, many of the seals being exactly like 
those which my brother had obtained at the old city of 
Camade\ Their owner would not come to terms on any 
account, and at the least hint of a haggle he packed his 
wares up promptly, being such a rich man that perhaps he 
asked exorbitant prices in order to keep his treasures in his 
own possession ! 

Persians of the lower class use their Bazaars as clubs and 
general meeting-places. Here all the news of the town is 
circulated, and every event of importance well discussed, no 
servant caring for a situation which is at any distance from 
his favourite haunt. 

A Persian coming to London would look upon Regent 
Street and Piccadilly as our Bazaars, although after a time 
the radical difference in the way the business is done in the 
East and the West would dawn upon him. At Tehran there 
was plenty of life in the long, dimly lighted, vaulted passages, 
which gave occasional peeps of the outer world — glimpses of 
courtyards with tanks of water gleaming in the brilliant 
sunshine, the blue dome of a mosque, or the brightly 



348 THROUGH PERSIA ON A" SIDE-SADDLE 

coloured tilework of minarets and gateways, and behind all 
the snowy hills, superb in their winter covering. 

After awhile we found ourselves near the dungeon, an 
underground room in the midst of all the traffic of the 
Bazaar, its low door opening on to the space between the 
booths. From the entrance leaned a haggard-looking man 
in rags, with a heavy chain round his neck, the other end 
of which was fastened to a table standing outside, near which 
an officer and a couple of soldiers were lounging. Dr. Rosen 
explained to us that it was his habit to free a prisoner each 
time that he visited the Bazaar, and he flung a two-kran piece 
to the inmate of the dungeon, and asked the good-looking 
officer to unlock the chain. That gentleman laughed plea- 
santly, and sent off an underling for the key, explaining that 
the prisoner had really committed no crime, but had been 
put under arrest for being found inside a house in which he 
had no possible business ! 

We walked on at this point of the proceedings, as it would 
have been contrary to etiquette to watch the transfer of the 
two krans from the hand of the prisoner to that of the officer, 
the former being released so cheaply as he was known to be 
exceedingly poor. 

On our return Dr. Rosen's protege \ now freed from " durance 
vile," loaded his deliverer with expressions of gratitude, and 
wound up by begging him for more coin of the realm ! As 
a soldier was keeping close behind him, Dr. Rosen feared 
that the poor fellow might be chained up again as soon as 
we had taken our departure, but a word to the officer settled 
matters satisfactorily. That personage waved the prisoner 
away with a grand gesture, commanding him to " lose him- 
self" as soon as possible, and he vanished in a second down 
the labyrinthine passages of the Bazaar. Imprisonment, like 
most things in this ill-governed land, is merely a question of 
money. If the relatives of a prisoner are rich, they buy him 
off, but should they refuse to do their duty in this way, the 
gaolers feed their captive, running up long bills for his 
nourishment, as they hope to extort a large sum from him 
on his release. If the man happens to be poor he has indeed 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 349 

a bad time of it, as he is forced to subsist on the precarious 
donations of the charitable. 

Dr. Rosen, who has an intimate acquaintance with Per- 
sians and their ways, told us that he once asked a Persian 
gentleman how it was that he was able to keep his servants 
for years without paying them. The Persian acknowledged 
frankly that he never expended any of his ready money in 
wages, but explained that he buoyed up his retainers with 
" lying hopes " ! 

The weather at this season was as warm and sunny as the 
early part of an English summer, and I remember that 
Madame de Balloy, the French Minister's wife, gave a pic- 
nic at Kasr Firouze, a shooting pavilion belonging to the 
Shah, some four miles north of Tehran, on December 21st, 
and we ate our lunch in the open air. 

Our way to this garden led past the palace of " Doshan 
Tepe," to which place the Shah often retires for a few days' 
sport, and we noticed porters carrying up doors, which were 
evidently borrowed from the palace in the town for the occa- 
sion, and would be returned when the monarch wended his 
way back again to his capital. Other men were dragging 
along some fine moufflon, which we suspected might very 
possibly be posted at suitable spots in the hills for his 
Majesty to fire at ; and we were told that a leopard had 
been caught, and was awaiting the royal coup de grace in 
its trap ! 

On Christmas Eve I had quite a busy time helping to 
decorate the church belonging to the American missionaries, 
who gave us a service every Sunday, and practising up an 
anthem and various elaborate chants for the morrow with 
the musical members of the congregation. • Christmas Day 
was so filled with friendliness and good wishes as to make us 
forget how far we were from home, and in the afternoon the 
English played polo on the big Meidan, or parade-ground, of 
Tehran, and thus the ancient Persian sport of chogan was 
revived, and mighty Demavend again beheld the game once 
played by the Achaemenian sovereigns. The day wound 
up with a dinner and dance given by Lady Durand to 



35o THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

all the English and Americans in Tehran, at which ap- 
peared two journalists in kharki suits and flannel shirts, 
who were actually traversing Persia from north to south 
on bicycles. 

Many of us rode in a big paper-chase on Boxing Day, 
and on our way home from the "come in" at the Kasvin 
Gate we encountered the Shah's elephants, one being a huge 
creature, that had been presented to him by Lord Dufferin. 
We were told that on one occasion this animal had run 
amuck during some festivity in the palace, and the terrified 
Persian nobility had taken refuge in the tanks of water in the 
garden. 

As the great beasts came lumbering on, uttering curious 
sounds much as if an amateur were blowing on a tin trumpet, 
they threw all the horses into a wild state of alarm, and as we 
were outside the city, with the deep moat of the ramparts 
on our right and a ditch on our left, it was somewhat sur- 
prising that no casualties occurred among such a crowd 
of shying horses, many bolting from the unaccustomed 
sight. 

Riding about the broad streets of Tehran with their fre- 
quent holes, one is struck by the number of dead dogs, which 
no one takes the trouble to remove. 

As "dog does not eat dog," the pariah scavengers never 
touch their deceased relatives, although a dead mule or horse 
will at once attract a hungry crowd round it. By the way, 
it is impossible for a lady to ride or walk anywhere alone and 
be secure from hustling and insult ; and the Persians have 
a pleasing habit of trying to ride Feringhees down, or at all 
events to push past them rudely. 

Horses stand loose all about the streets, their riders pay- 
ing calls, and leaving their steeds unfastened at the doors. 
Occasionally, however, a runaway comes galloping along, 
making straight for its stable, threading its way cleverly 
among the incessant caravans of mules and donkeys laden 
with brushwood, charcoal, and kah> and not causing the 
least commotion. 

Some horses appear to have a great dislike to the harmless 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 35 1 

donkeys, and one of our acquaintances had a steed which 
astonished me by charging at the patient asses and literally 
rolling them over, loads and all. On muddy days the 
flowing tails of all the horses are tied up in bunches to 
keep them out of the mire, giving the animals a curiously 
"undress " appearance. 

The Shah's race-horses are exercised on a course round the 
walls of the Aspidiwani (race-horse garden). During January 
they were taken at a slow walk every morning, muffled up to 
the ears and ridden by small boys singing weird songs, who 
work their charges up to a frantic gallop during the after- 
noon. The races take place at Noruz i and occasion much 
excitement. The Persians, having no idea of fair play, press 
the Europeans to enter for the prizes for which the latter 
subscribe ; but if a Feringhee is seen to be winning, riders 
will dash out from among the spectators and come into 
collision with him, so that he may lose the race. 

A horse is prepared for a race by being given neither food 
nor drink for some twelve hours before its trial, the object 
being to make it lighter, and therefore able to gallop, as its 
master imagines, faster ; and the jockeys are always boys 
of twelve to fourteen. 

The Aspidiwani garden is remarkable, not for its long 
avenues of poplars, with rickety, blue-painted lamp-posts at 
intervals, or its gaudy palace, but for the bronze equestrian 
statue of the late Shah, placed on a small islet in the midst 
of a large tank of water. The monarch is sitting erect on a 
curvetting steed, and in the dry, pure air the bronze looks 
almost as if it were freshly cast. The statue is interesting 
as being the first work of the kind ever made in Persia, and 
its erection caused considerable comment among the Faith- 
ful, as it is entirely contrary to the precepts of the Koran to 
make an image or painting of anything living. 

The snow began after the first week in January, but lasted 
a very short time, and we got no skating, although we used 
to inspect the ponds and yakjals anxiously. These latter are 
long canals of shallow water, always facing north and pro- 
tected by a high mud wall from the rays of the sun. As soon 



352 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

as ice is formed on them it is cut up and stored away in 
houses resembling gigantic mud beehives, and the canal is 
reflooded. By means of this arrangement ice is one of the 
commonest of luxuries, and there is never any lack of it 
during the hot summer months. 

Persia is indeed rightly called the " Land of the Sun," and 
Tehran would be an ugly and depressing place of residence 
were it not for that luminary. It is the flood of sunshine 
lighting up the snowy peaks, bringing out mellow tints on 
the mud buildings, and making the tilework of cupolas, gate- 
ways, and minarets to glitter, which lends a beauty not its 
own to a Persian town. The long, stony roads, the yellow 
gravelly desert scattered with bones, relics of the meals of the 
pariah dogs, and the sallow-faced, dingy-garmented Persians 
themselves, do not look amiss under the glorious radiance. 
But take away the god Baal, and in the twinkling of an 
eye everything is transformed. The magnificent white 
mountains become stern and forbidding, the chill and 
desolation of the whole landscape penetrate to the very 
heart, while the town, now mean and squalid, presents a 
dead monotony of the most uninspired mud architecture. 

But what is more important is the fact that the sun 
supplements the clothing of a large proportion of the popu- 
lace, and on a grey winter day it is sad to see so many 
shivering, ill-clad folk and so many half-starved pariah dogs 
whose sole refuge is the street. During the first winter 
we spent at Tehran people were frozen to death nightly, 
and the beggars became naturally more insistent than 
ever. 

Some of these latter, however, are men of property, as 
was proved one day when we were walking with the Durands. 
A dervish loaded our party with such polite salutations 
that Sir Mortimer said so cheery a fellow ought to be 
rewarded, and ordered the gholam in attendance to give 
him a kran. As the man had only a two-kran piece, he 
asked for change, and we were amused to see the dervish 
produce a well-filled purse and promptly tender the required 
coin ! 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 353 

Sir Mortimer quoted to me the motto of a beggar at 
Koom, who was perpetually chanting this refrain : — 

" Khoda guft, ' bidde » 
Shaitan guft, ' nidde.' " 

(* God says, ' Give ' ; 

Satan says, ' Don't give.' '') 

On February 1, 1897, we sa id goodbye to Tehran for the 
second time ; but now we were going home instead of turning 
our faces to the wilds as before, and the Durands, whose 
wonderful kindness to us it would be impossible ever to 
forget, were coming to England a fortnight later. So we 
galloped with some of our friends a couple of miles beyond 
the Kasvin Gate, and then got into a rickety little hooded 
carriage to begin our ninety-mile drive to Kasvin. One or 
two people said they thought the sky looked uncommonly 
as if it were working up for snow, but the day, though cold 
and windy, was bright, and we laughed at their fears, saying 
that all the snow for this winter had certainly descended, 
and that the early Persian spring was at hand. 

We spent the first night at Yungi Imaum, and it was a 
lovely morning when we set out for Kasvin the next day 
across a bare, steppe-like country, reaching away on either 
side the very bad road, which resembled a ploughed field, to 
snow-covered ranges of hills. There was scarcely a village to 
be seen, but we stopped and changed our underfed and over- 
worked horses at mud rest-houses at intervals, and I was not 
surprised to hear that many of the poor animals succumbed 
to the hardships of the road, the Carriage Company losing a 
hundred and fifty during one year. The sky was dull and 
grey as we made our way into Kasvin, the best laid-out town 
in Persia, as the saying is ; but its broad, tree-bordered roads 
and grand mosque and minars hardly compensate for the 
ruinous condition of a large proportion of the houses, nor for 
the general look of decay and stagnation in the whole place. 

We had taken our faithful Sultan Sukru and Gul Mahomet 
(" Flower of the Prophet "), our groom, to escort us to Resht, 

24 



354 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

my brother airily remarking that as every Oriental could 
cook they would do all that we could want. 

When I sounded Sultan Sukru on his accomplishments as 
regarded the saucepan, he said smilingly that he supposed he 
could cook if I would do everything first to show him, and 
Gul Mahomet was even less encouraging ! So, not wishing 
to depend on broken reeds, I took enough bread, tins of 
soup, cooked partridges, and so on, with us from Tehran to 
last for some days, packing them up carefully in bags, and at 
Kasvin we concocted such a satisfactory grill for dinner that 
we resolved to be our own cooks in future as far as possible, 
and retired well content to rest. My brother, however, was 
disagreeably surprised by rinding a black scorpion running 
about in his bedding (which had not been used while he was 
at Tehran), and hunt as we would we could not capture it, so 
he had perforce to go to sleep with ammonia and a knife by 
his side, ready for possible emergencies. 

We were told that the route to Agha Baba was impassable 
for carriages on account of the snow, so we mounted sorry 
post-horses at Kasvin, and soon came to a region of deep 
slush, the melting snow on either side draining down into the 
road. My steed had an unpleasant tendency to topple over 
on its head, and was so worn out that it needed the most 
energetic urgings on my part to force it along the twelve 
miles to the castellated mud village, where we halted and 
lunched before attempting the seven miles on to Masrah. 

The whole country was now covered with thick snow, 
which had only partially thawed in this high region, and we 
were obliged to ride at a foot's pace in single file, along a 
narrow track which abounded with holes filled with muddy 
water. Our poor horses tripped and stumbled in a pitiable 
way, every now and then breaking through a thin crust of 
frozen snow, and plunging down into deep holes, making 
their riders feel far from comfortable. A few caravans of 
heavily laden mules met us lumbering along towards Kasvin, 
and there was then much danger of a collision, as one party 
or the other was obliged to leave the track and plunge into 
the deep snow at the side. We noticed, with some anxiety, 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 355 

that the sky was covered with grey clouds and had a steely 
blue line on the horizon ; but our muleteer reassured us by 
saying that we had had the full amount of snow for the 
year : nevertheless, fine flakes began to descend as we picked 
our way to the chaparkhana of Masrah, dirty and tumbled- 
down, with its balakhana in ruins. 

We knew that a fall of snow would probably block the 
Kharzan Pass over the Elburz Range, which was the crux 
of our journey, and we by no means relished a lengthy 
sojourn in two small rooms with filthy chintz nailed to the 
walls and grimy turkey-twill ceiling-cloths, put up in honour 
of General Kourapatkin's visit two years before, most likely 
harbourage for the poisonous bugs for which Masrah is 
notorious. However, the snow was falling fast when we 
woke next morning, and a heavy white pall rested low on 
the hills, making it impossible to see many feet ahead ; while 
the track was completely obliterated by six inches of snow. 

In spite of this we hoped to start, but our charvadar 
and the other muleteers declared it would be as much as 
their lives were worth to make the attempt, and even refused 
to try and get to the little village of Kharzan, only six miles 
off and at the top of the pass. So we spent our day in 
reading, writing, and cooking, amusing ourselves by attempt- 
ing to make savoury dishes out of the materials at our 
disposal, but not achieving much variety as they all tasted 
alike. 

We were thankful that we had allowed a spare day for our 
journey, as otherwise we should have missed the steamer at 
Enzeli, and were yet more thankful when the morrow dawned 
clear and bright, and we left our dirty, stuffy refuge and 
started off at 7.30 a.m to do the worst part of our ride. Our 
horses stepped off briskly in single file along a narrow track, 
beaten down on the crisp, frozen snow, and we felt that at 
this rate the ride to Kharzan, where we intended to lunch, 
would be a mere bagatelle. 

Ahead of us were some fifty or sixty mules and donkeys 
toiling laboriously along, making the path, and when we 
came up with them we naturally wished to pass, the wind 



356 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

being so cold that it pierced our wraps as if they had been 
made merely of paper. However, it was easier to talk about 
getting in front of these caravans than to do it. 

We tried to force our way past a line of humble donkeys, 
which swerved off the track into the deep snow lying on 
either side, and straightway fell over, loads and all. So we 
attempted to struggle through the snow ourselves, and in a 
moment our horses were floundering helplessly, their legs 
slipping from under them and we slipping off their backs. 
However, there was nothing for it but to persevere, and we 
remounted our steeds, which plunged a second time up to 
their shoulders, while we again fell off. So we resolved to 
lead them, and managed to walk in tolerable comfort on the 
fairly hard snow past the caravans, our ponies floundering 
after us as best they could. 

We now found that we were, in a way, the pioneers of the 
road, the snow lying smooth and untrodden ahead of us, 
covering a series of low hills, rising one above the other to 
the crest of the pass. There was, of course, no track of any 
kind ; but we mounted and went straight upwards, the snow 
getting apparently deeper as we proceeded, and our unfor- 
tunate horses rolling us and themselves over more fre- 
quently. 

At last we were obliged to take to our legs again, and the 
next two or three hours will be for ever engraved on my 
memory. The sun was rapidly melting the snow, so that we 
could not walk on its upper crust, as we were able to do at 
first, but sank at each step up to our knees, and occasionally 
much further if we were unlucky enough to get into a drift. 
What with the labour of such walking, the rarefied atmo- 
sphere, and the intense cold, I frankly confess that I could 
have sat down and wept from sheer exhaustion. I did my 
best to follow in my brother's footprints, as did King 
Wenceslas' page in the Christmas carol ; but it was weary 
work pulling oneself up from hole after hole, and our 
progress was painfully slow and fatiguing. 

Everything, however, has an end sooner or later, and when 
we had achieved our fifth undulation it dawned upon us that 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 357 

the snow was less deep, so we took heart and remounted, 
seeing some way off the village of Kharzan and a great 
caravan approaching us. We crawled carefully down the 
next hill, Sultan Sukru and his horse turning a complete 
somersault on the way ; and then came the problem of how 
we were to pass the slowly moving karftla, as there was only 
room for one animal on the track at a time. 

My brother, who was leading, struck out into the deep 
snow, and his horse and a mule from the caravan rolled over 
together, so that he had some difficulty in getting clear of 
their hoofs, and hardly had he recovered himself than my 
steed sat down with me, and I judged it wiser to slide off. 

With many a tumble and struggle we managed to pass 
the long string of mules and reach the beaten track again, 
after which we proceeded merrily to Kharzan, having taken 
five hours to do a distance not much over six miles, but 
being too thankful to have accomplished it to complain of 
the difficulties of the route. After a halt and some lunch we 
set off for the nine miles down hill to Paichenar, finding no 
snow, but streams of mud which made the track very slippery 
in places. Our mules came in that evening, after having been 
fourteen hours on the road, and we were glad to think that 
to-morrow's march was only some twelve miles, over a good 
track for Persia, as both men and beasts were worn out. 

The next day we made a late start about 8.30 a.m., and 
as the rain was falling we decided to ride our four farsakhs 
straight on end, instead of making a midday halt for lunch. 

It was a good thing we did not tarry, for half-way we 
encountered a mild form of blizzard, the rain coming down 
like a waterspout, while hailstones were driven into our 
faces by such violent gusts of wind that our horses swerved 
from them again and again. My waterproof cape was 
soaked through, and nearly torn from my back by the fury 
of the tempest, I was almost blinded with the hail, and if 
my brother had not lashed at my steed with his hunting-whip 
I scarcely know how I should have got the reluctant creature 
along the road, which now seemed interminable. It was 
indeed a relief to reach the chaparkhana at Menjil and find 



358 THROUGH PERSIA ON A SIDE-SADDLE 

a fire by which to warm ourselves, for we were literally wet 
through, and had to wait two or three hours before our 
caravan arrived with dry clothing. 

I had had an idea that the difficulties of the Resht road 
were somewhat exaggerated, but these two days had shown 
me what it could be like in winter, and I have no wish to 
repeat the experiences of this my third visit. 

Two or three days later we had to make our way to 
Rustemabad, over a dangerous track, resembling staircases 
and even " shoots " of rock in parts ; but the chapar horses 
are sagacious little animals, sliding down these places from 
point to point, and very seldom coming to grief. However, 
on this occasion the road was very slippery with yesterday's 
sleet, and we had to hold our ponies up most carefully. My 
brother got annoyed with Sultan Sukru for staying so far 
behind us, but was mollified when that faithful factotum, 
who was not much of a horseman, explained that he and his 
steed had already been down three times and the post-boy 
twice ! 

Next day we had to negotiate a long thirty miles to 
Resht in order to catch our steamer which left Enzeli 
on the following midday, and as it had frozen during the 
night we found the roads in a terrible condition, it being 
a wonder that we did not follow the post-boy's example, 
who fell in a heap with his steed at such short intervals 
that he quite exhausted my sympathy, which had been 
active at first. 

After awhile we came to the forest, and here the Russian 
Road Company was at work, pulling up the old cobbled 
causeway, which, with all its deficiencies, was certainly 
preferable to the sea of liquid mud left in its stead. Through 
this our unfortunate ponies waded, nearly toppling on their 
heads, and my heart was often in my mouth as we escaped 
again and again by a hair's-breadth from being rolled over 
in the foot-deep mire. The caravans of small donkeys were 
coated with mud from head to foot, and in one place a 
camel, left by its owner, was placidly lying down in a 
mud bath, evidently considering death a lesser evil than 



TEHRAN RE VISITED 359 

further struggles through such rivers of slush. I do not 
fancy that it was possible to do much to the road with 
caravans passing to and fro at short intervals, and the crowds 
of Persians armed with shovels and pickaxes did not appear 
to be bestirring themselves at all, though I noticed a spas- 
modic activity among their ranks when the dapper Russian 
engineer made his appearance, looking, in his smart uniform, 
very much out of place amidst the dirt and disorder around 
him. Primroses, violets, and cyclamens were in full bloom 
on the mossy fern-clad banks that bordered the leafless 
forest, and there was a feeling of spring in the air, so superb 
is the Persian climate, where winter is but a name, and green 
crops rise up amid the snow and frost. 

We reached Kuddum about midday, but no carriages 
were in waiting to drive us into Resht, owing to the state 
of the roads, and after a halt for lunch we strapped the 
baggage we intended to take with us to England on the 
backs of three horses, and set off at a rough jog-trot, riding 
behind the loaded animals to keep them up to the mark. 
The roads were truly execrable, the mud often reaching 
to our horses' knees as we hurried painfully along ; and 
once or twice our boxes came unloosened, and rolling off 
ignominiously into the mire, had to be fished out and 
fastened on afresh. 

We reached the outskirts of Resht at sunset, and found 
the Bazaars all open and lit up as it was the month of 
the Fast of Ramazan. A gun sounded as we entered the 
town to signify that the Faithful might now begin to feed, 
and as we passed along every one was drinking glasses of 
tea, and the savoury smell of cooking reminded us that 
we were very hungry. 

It was quite dark by this time, and our baggage horses 
were most tiresome, as they persisted in bolting off up 
side-streets, and had to be headed and driven back in the 
right direction. It seemed as if we should never reach the 
Consulate through the labyrinth of narrow alleys, and when 
we arrived it was to find the house locked up and the 
servants away, notwithstanding that we had telegraphed